High Performance Programme Essential for Development and Sustainability of Island’s Athletes

By Reginald Andrew
Youth Development and Sports Minister, Kenson Casimir
Youth Development and Sports Minister, Kenson Casimir

While commending Team Saint Lucia for their outstanding performance at the recently held Carifta Games, in the Bahamas, Sports Minister Kenson Casimir stated that there needs to be access to more sporting facilities and uplifting technical programmes for the island’s athletes to excel on the global stage.

The minister was buoyed by the accomplishments of the athletes at the region’s highest ranked youth meet- the Carifta Games, where Saint Lucia lugged in its largest chunk of medals, to date.

Notably, he disclosed that a High Performance Programme initiative will be presented this year, in an effort to focus on the sustainability of the island’s athletes.

Over the past weeks, Saint Lucian athletes have been performing remarkably well in local and regional sports, but what about the sustainability of these athletes?

Upon graduating from secondary school, some athletes are fortunate to gain sports scholarships to pursue higher studies and uplift their careers or athletic prowess. But, for the less fortunate athletes, is there some sort of ‘data base’ or record of these athletes’ achievements to help push them to the next level?

Minister Casimir affirmed his concerns on the issue, which, he said, has not been taken up by successive administrations.  He stated: “The biggest challenge for any sports minister …is that we have the best athletes in the world, from ages 19 and under. And if we look at any sort of measure, per capita, of sports athletes in the world between the ages of one year to 19 years, Saint Lucia has produced some of the best in the world”.

According to the minister: “The challenge for Saint Lucia is when those (secondary) school graduates or individuals leave school between 18 and 19 years old, and they enter into the work world that is when they become less competitive on a global stage.”

He recalled that there have been Saint Lucian athletes from ages 12 to 19, who have gone on to represent the region in cricket at the highest junior level and others that have performed remarkably well at the Carifta Games “and were absolutely outstanding…but fell by the wayside”.

Added Casimir: “In Saint Lucia, we must develop a ‘High Performance Programme’. We have the capacity to do so …and we’ve had many conversations on how we can do so.

“As a minister of sports, I can say that I’ve had my disappointments in terms of the pace at which we graduated or gravitated towards having a High Performance Programme, in Saint Lucia, but this is the way we can actually grab those young talents, and nurture all aspects of their lives.”

This would take into account, he said, the nutrition of these athletes, assessment of their athletic abilities relating to training workouts, physiotherapy, psychology, and “there is an area, a One Stop area, where we can develop this High Performance and that is at the Sports Academy”.

Taking umbrage with the structural and technical development of the island’s budding athletes, the minister contends: “It is a disservice to youth and sports development to spend anywhere in excess of $2 million on 20 athletes , as opposed to spending that money on a High Performance Programme for those individuals we know have the talent at 17, 18 and 19 that we let go into the work world …who cannot be part of a High Performance Programme to train appropriately , and to get the physiotherapy and the psychology that they need.”

Casimir asserted: “It is a disservice to these athletes if at the end of the day we continue to gravitate to a Sports Academy, as supposed to a High Performance Programme.”

Since Saint Lucia won a Gold Medal in Futsal –Beach Football at the Commonwealth Games, a few years ago, there has been talk about the development of the sport on island. But how much effort is being put into the significance of taking the sport of Beach Football to a higher level or professional standard?

“We initiated the first step in beach football development, in Saint Lucia …and at the Easter weekend, we began the first-ever Northern Beach Football competition,” explained Casimir. “And from all indications, it was an absolute blast. The expectation is to spread beach football, north, south, east and west.

He added, “We have held consultation with the Football Association President Lyndon Cooper to ensure that we have more beach football.  Considering that we are surrounded by the sea and sand …so we continue to have these conversations, we continue to liaise with some groups, like the National Trust to find other areas where we can have those competitions, because venue is important”.

The Gros Islet MP said, while they were able to utilize the Pigeon Island area to stage the recent Northern Beach Football competition, nonetheless, “we are certainly hoping that we can spread it throughout Saint Lucia and have a programme that is sustained, so that we can actually start exporting some of our beach footballers.”

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