Panel: Sports vital to Cayman's youth

Program goals may need refining, but sports help keep crime levels in check

Recreational sports in the Cayman Islands has not failed the territory’s youth as a potential alternative to anti-social or criminal activities, an expert panel agreed during a discussion on the subject last week.  

However, members said the goals of some sports programs likely need to change going forward, both from a business management standpoint and in encouraging youth participation at earlier ages.  

“From what we’ve seen, sports has been vital…to actually keep crime levels from being higher than they are,” said Sports Department Director Collin Anglin, who was joined by FIFA Vice President Jeff Webb, Chamber of Commerce President Johann Moxam, and Richard Adams, director of the Cayman Islands Rugby Union, on the Thursday panel which considered the role of sports in reducing youth crime.  

The panel was part of the annual Cayman Economic Outlook forum at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.  

“We have programs in the department of sports for over 700 children,” Mr. Anglin said. “Less than 2 percent…have had some type of deviant behavior.”  

Mr. Anglin said not every child wants to play sports, but he said recreational sports remains a relevant part of the equation in addressing youth crime, as well as health issues.  

Mr. Webb, who is also the head of the Cayman Islands Football Association, said he would challenge anyone to find a better value for money in preventing youth crime in the Cayman Islands than the practice of recreational sport.  

“I think the question is ‘is this generation failing sports?’” he said.  

Mr. Webb said when he first became involved in local football, he recalled the minister in charge of sports at the time telling him any money spent by government on athletics was a waste. He said things had improved in recent years.  

Mr. Anglin agreed. “I am seeing the shift. There is an increase in the awareness of the value of sports. Is it where we want it to be at this point? No. But I have seen an increase in the value that’s placed on it.”  

Mr. Adams said from his perspective, certain sports programs are administered well and work well, but others are not.  

“I wouldn’t buy a store, spend $10,000 putting stock in the store and then hire a sales clerk and say ‘charge what you think it would be.’ That’s really what we’re doing with sport in Cayman at the moment. 

“There’s not been a lot of leadership…for the schools in particular,” Mr. Adams said. “Sport in primary school is a classic example. 

“We’ve got to hook kids in at a young age. Do parents drive kids to sport? Not when they’re 10, 11, 12, it’s too late. Yeah, not everybody wants to be an athlete. Lots of people say lawn bowling is not a sport, but it still teaches discipline.” 

Mr. Moxam said Cayman’s public sector, especially, should decide what it wants to achieve with sports programs and whether the primary focus should be the select few elite athletes or keeping the majority of the populace healthy and involved in the community.  

“I think we need to have an honest conversation,” Mr. Moxam said. “You’ve got 55,000 people, 20,000 work permits. The likelihood of us ever qualifying for a World Cup final is slim to none. 

“To drop $500,000 on a World Cup campaign that we will never qualify for is throwing good money after bad. We need to set realistic expectations.”  

Youth crime and unemployment have become more of a focus in recent years for the Cayman Islands. The latest job numbers at the end of 2012 revealed that unemployment among people in the 15-24 age group was more than 21 percent.  

Also, recent government statistical reports have identified steadily increasing juvenile crime rates, even when the overall crime rate in the territory has stayed the same or decreased. For instance, the number of criminal offences committed by juvenile or teenage suspects in the Cayman Islands doubled in 2011, and some of the more serious violent crimes blamed on those young offenders increased sharply. According to the records for 2011, there were a total of 307 offenses committed by individuals between the ages of 11 and 18. In 2010, that number was 150.  

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Youth, sports and crime panel members at last week’s Cayman Economic Outlook forum, from left: moderator Jay Ehrhart, Cayman Islands Rugby Union Director Richard Adams, FIFA Vice President Jeff Webb, government Director of Sports Collin Anglin and Chamber of Commerce President Johann Moxam. – Photo: Brent Fuller