(CONTINUING from Saturday, June 3 edition) — At the core of any such plan must be the raising of the competence levels of all local coaches. SLASA, clubs, the ministries responsible for sport and education and all coaches will have to come on board in this regard.
Clinics will have to be conducted under the auspices of SLASA to facilitate improving the competence levels of local coaches which has been done in cooperation with swimming’s international federation (FINA) for many years. Individual coaches will have to continually study their trade if they are to raise the level of swimmers under their guidance. Coaches will now have to commit themselves to keeping up with developments in swimming at the highest level on a daily basis.
Not only must there be an improvement in the level of competence of local coaches, but also in the competence levels and an increase in the number of learn to swim instructors if there is to be an increase in the pool of swimmers from which competitive swimmers can be drawn.
SLASA and each club will have to initiate a series of cooperation agreements with swim federations and/or other clubs in other countries with a view to enhancing the level of swimming locally.
Just as is the case in the United States schools, swimming has to play a central role in developing swimmers. There needs to be a national schools swim programme starting with a learn to swim component along the lines of the programme commenced in 2009 in the south by Andy Edward in collaboration with the Ministry of Education’s District Offices. The schools programme cannot be limited to learn to swim and an annual swim meet. If this situation continues, swimming in Saint Lucia will be going nowhere fast.
Starting in 2018, at least one other schools swim meet must be added to the local swim calendar. The aim should be to develop a schools’ swim season which could stretch from one to two months annually.
The planning of the schools’ swim season must take into consideration the cycle of the academic year of the public school system which has CXC examinations commencing in May and ending in June at its apex. Last year, a number of competitive swimmers could not compete in the Schools Meet because of a clash with CXC examinations, some of who had examinations on the day of the meet! This year, the Schools meet also clashes with the CXC examinations.
The entire programme for swimming locally must recognize the independence of each of its component parts, including the clubs whilst being holistic part of a programme.
In order to attract the type of sponsorship and support required to make swimming affordable to the majority of Saint Lucians, the sport must attract new participants in a way that will attract corporate sponsorship within and without Saint Lucia. Approaches must be made to sponsors on a regional and international level. Sponsorship should be designed to make swimming as a sport affordable to a wide cross-section of Saint Lucian society.
It is only by broadening the base of swimming that we can unearth the untapped potential for swimming that exists in our island home. A Caribbean triathlete at the 2008 Olympics stated at those games among other things that “the best swimmers in the region have not learned to swim one stroke yet!”
In order to allow any plan of this nature to bear fruit, an organizational framework must be put in place to organize and administer the development and advancement of swimming in Saint Lucia. SLASA, like the most advanced swimming and sports federations internationally, and even in the region, must be incorporated. Steps need to be commenced leading to the establishment of an office housing a secretariat which can run swimming on a day-to-day basis.
It is hoped that this article will help generate the necessary dialogue which will allow a forward thinking swim programme to emerge in Saint Lucia.