The Jamaican Olympic success has been simply phenomenal and I admire and congratulate the government and people of Jamaica. I however worry about my own country because every four years we rehash the same discussion about what is Jamaica doing right and what we are doing wrong? The solution is the same – we need a strategy for sport and consistent implementation. Our leaders continue to fail us by not clearly communicating their vision.
In a recent address Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said that “Childhood Obesity had doubled and that the Non Communicable Disease (NCD) policy, which is waiting on approval, will come on-stream soon”. The fact that Minister Deyalsingh referenced the increase in obesity in children tells me that we are aware of the problem. What is needed now is action to get our children moving.
During the 10 years I served as Secretary of the Witco Sports Foundation, I spent a lot of time with the late Lystra Lewis and one of the stories she often told was what led to our country sharing the World Netball Championship title with Australia and New Zealand in 1979. This was the the fifth (5th) World Netball Championship which was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1979. 20 countries were represented.
10 years prior to this achievement, Lystra Lewis won the bid for Trinidad and Tobago to host the tournament. At the time we did not have a stadium and she knew that good facilities were needed so she approach then Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams to build the facility which is now known as the Jean Pierre Complex. Her role was to implement a developmental plan which would see Netball being played across the country. This resulted in the unearthing and fine tuning of talent at all levels of our society but it began with a focussed attempt, a strategic intent to create a winning netball team.
Unfortunately, we have not maintained that high performance, well oiled machinery and Netball has slid to un unthinkable level.
In every area of sport, Trinidad and Tobago has consistently demonstrated that we have the talent but we continue to underperform. The missing element is there is no strategic intent. I have not heard the Minister of Sport articulate such a strategic intent. Once he makes the call, we would quickly need to deploy qualified physical education teachers into every school and provide them with a programme aimed at developing the specific athlete(s) we want to produce. That’s what inspired leadership would look like.
During my Caribbean Games experience, my mantra was “Sport must become the weapon of choice for our youth”. I still believe in the potential and possibility of this statement but it will only become a reality when we devote the time and effort to craft the strategy for the sport industry. Of course, this has been done before but our leaders choose not to build on previously laid foundations but to smash any bases that exist. As blood fertilizes our land and our people flounder, it is urgent that we put a strategic plan in place to capture the imagination of our youth and re-ignite our people’s passion for sport. Whatever we do, there is the grim recognition that it may be another generation before we reap the rewards. But if action is taken now, my generation may pass-on confident in the knowledge that our future sports persons will thrive in a nurturing, passionate environment. The minimum outcome will be a reversal of the negative obesity trend amongst our children.