Saint LUCIA has been able to produce many outstanding sports personalities in the various disciplines over many years, and the country is destined to do even better now, with the new Ministry of Sports.
I must tell you that I actually grew up in George Charles’ Boulevard, just a stone throw away from both the Marchand Grounds and The Mindoo Philip Park.
Indeed, I am fortunate to have seen several outstanding players in the various sporting disciplines in action. In Table Tennis I saw Gregory Anderson and Mollan Charles in peak form; in Netball I saw Joyce Auguste, Angella Brice, Anselma Clouden, Ruby York , just to name a few in their best form.
In cricket there were so many outstanding players whom I saw actually playing the game; Michael Hippolyte: in fact there were two Michael Hippolytes, Ignatius Cadet, Rupert Branford, Earl Cenac, the Mauricette Brothers, Julian Hunte, just to name a few.
In football; Arnold Clouden, the Edmund Brothers, the Odlum Brothers; Neville Skeete; again, just to name a few.
In fact, most, if not all, of these sportsmen and women represented St. Lucia in their sporting discipline.
On the international stage, we have had Daren Sammy who has made us proud on the West Indies Cricket Team. Currently we have Johnson Charles who has just been recalled to that team. For several years, the Iconic Levern Spencer had been making St. Lucia proud in High Jump; followed by Jeanelle Scheper. Julien Alfred is currently making us very proud in that discipline, particularly in the 100m.
I have said all of this to show that St. Lucia has taken its place in the regional and international stages for almost five decades.
And the Ministry of Sports is moving very briskly ahead to consolidate the gains St. Lucia has made in sports. The Minister for Sports Kenson Casimir is an avid sportsman himself having represented St. Lucia in Track and Field. So he knows the “nerves to touch.”
Quite recently I heard the minister say that his Ministry is moving ahead to strengthen Partnerships of Sporting Associations in St. Lucia. And I have no doubt that his Ministry will be able to achieve that goal.
Already, the St. Lucia Olympic Committee is moving ahead with its sports programme. Indeed, the SLOC is a creature of the Ministry of Youth & Sports.
Very recently, the SLOC held a Sports Retreat at which 20 associations were represented. The SLOC highlighted sports incentives and policy formulation among the several areas discussed at the retreat.
The SLOC is not all talk. There is action behind the talk. I noted that almost half-a-million dollars was donated to various sporting disciplines to assist with their own programmes. And that’s commendable, to say the least.
Now, evaluating performance is one matter, but recognising and providing incentives is another area completely. That kind of motivation will push people to their limits. And Alfred Emmanuel, Chairman of the SLOC, as an educator himself, would know that.
Well the minister of Youth Development and Sports has a serious responsibility. Youth Development on one hand and Sports on the other, is quite a lot to cope with. And I am sure the minister will be able to handle the portfolios.
Making linkages with sporting fraternities is the commencement of a Strategic Plan. These links should be strengthened by constant and effective communication with those groups.
People participation in matters of youth and sports is critical. Already we know that 72% of our population is made up of youth. I do not know what the current population census will show, but it won’t be too far away, negative or positive, from that 72%.
We know for a fact that young people have a burst of energy. And that energy could be put into good use at the national level.
Sports is particularly key to youth development. Physical education and physical activity in general contribute to the development of soft skills and impart values such as teamwork, solidarity, and respect, all of which are crucial to building peace and cohesive societies.
I am sure that the minister for sports has already begun to liaise with the minister for education to ensure that an updated physical education syllabus is available in the schools.
In my earlier years as a classroom teacher, I started with a syllabus which was made up of a few printed sheets which also included local dances. But by the time I had spent five years in the system, that syllabus had disappeared. I spent another 37 years, including principalship, and never saw a revised copy. I hope by now there is one in at least all the Primary schools in St. Lucia.
I must admit, that there were physical education teachers or specialists who visited the school with the aim of helping teachers with their physical education programmes. Even when I attended the teachers’ Training College at the Morne then, I remember Mrs Lynette Glasgow, a Vincentian, providing the physical education training for the student teachers.
It’s not the physical superstructures that matter in community education and development, and sports. But instead the many small and targeted activities and programmes that matter.
I look forward to having well-conceived and implemented youth development and sports programmes initiated by the St. Lucia Ministry of Youth Development and Sports.
Let me wish Hon. Kenson Casimir a successful term of office.