Where Are Our New Sportsmen?
Wed, Jan 26, '05
The last two weeks has been a further eye opener, a very concerned eye, that is, as to our desperate need for good young sportsmen, in every discipline, not only in Trinidad & Tobago, but around the Caribbean region.
Many players are participating in every sport, but less than 25 percent of the players now involved are names new to each of the respective sports.
While watching Trinidad & Tobago play against Guyana in the 2005 Carib Cup opening game at Balmain, Couva, I was really amazed at the few new names that were mentioned in either team, despite the fact that the West Indies senior team, with the more well known players, are now in Australia. While many of the names playing the regional cricket this year might not be household names, most of them have been around for about two years at least, some graduating from the Under 15 and Under 19 levels, carrying on their own minor careers.
To be honest, my great concern really manifested itself more during the two years that I had been involved at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, as its first Facility Manager of the Sports & Physical Education Center, a tenure that ended in May 2004. Of the more than 4000 students at the St. Augustine Campus, more than 1000 are men, mostly young men, just coming out of high school. Yet, very disappointingly, and similarly noted with much anguish, it was extremely difficult, during that two year period, to get a regular XI players, every week, to participate in the campus?s senior cricket team, a tremendous example as to how difficult things could be. Soccer was more popular, but not regulated soccer, just pick up games. No-one seems to have to time to be involved properly.
This was not due to the male players not wanting to be involved in sport or anything like that. On the contrary, the young men, and indeed, the young women, were generally very keen. It was and still is their parents that are the trouble.
An ex school head-master told me recently that ?the greatest problem that kids have these days, generally, is their parents!? With two kids myself, one just out of university and the other very much a young teenage high-school lady, I am sure that the wizened ex-head-master was very much on the ball. The parents of the useful sports-minded kids, especially those who are smart academically, are simply trying hard to push their kids away from sport of any kind. The influence is tremendous.
If you doubt me, consider what we are doing to our kids of less than 12 years old. In every country of the Caribbean, we have an examination similar to the School Secondary Entrance Assessment Examination (SEA) as is held in Trinidad & Tobago each year. Parents of these age groups kids send their kids to ?normal? school from maybe 7:30am to 3: 00pm. That kid then has to go to ?special lessons? between 3:00pm and 6:00pm every weekday and almost always, the entire Saturday of every week. The kid then goes home at about 7:00pm every night, simply to do more homework and to barely get some rest as to do the same all over the next day. When the child has passed the examination and attends the prestigious schools, or not, the child then has to repeat the entire process all over again in high school and in college.
When might I ask, does this under-12 kid relax? When does this child do child-like things, like go swimming, or just having some fun with friends in their yards? When does this kid rest? The truth is: Never. It gets worse as the child grows older in schools, since the parents drive them so much that one wonders how many will survive.
Parents are literally killing their kids with this drive, this want, for them to become, in most cases, what the parents never were, successful in education. To achieve this end, everything, especially sport, even a normal family life in some circumstances, is sacrificed. Yet we wonder why so many of the young people ?blow up? and just do their own thing!! We, the parents, actually push them into that position.
What is most worrying is this. These parents are the same parents who went to high schools in the 1960?s, 1970?s and even 1980?s, all managing to pass their ?O? and ?A? Level examinations with flying colors. Some are now businessmen, some engineers, some politicians etc, and whom, to a man or woman, played every sport in the primary and high schools while completing their education. Indeed, most of them actually boast that they were the best at their respective schools and even at university when it came to sports. Yet now, these same people, as parents, are telling their kids that ?they cannot do both sport and education, that education is too expensive, so the sacrifice has to be made where sport is concerned.? This is sheer madness.
Even more depressingly, it has been reported to me many times that even some University Lecturers, in these supposedly enlightened times, those same guys who all speak so much about sport, any sport, with great authority, have been guilty of curtailing certain young sport careers with the curt ?if you miss my classes so that you can play some stupid game, you know that you would not be allowed to pass the course.?
Indeed, we are still waiting with bated breath, some turning really blue, for the day that the University of the West Indies, that supposed revered centre of learning, would really come into at least the 18th century (yes, folks, sports scholarships have been offered since back then) and offer full scholarships for sporting activities. Caricom, started in 1972, took about 32 years to do something useful, the proposed CSME, so maybe we still have several decades to wait to see where the University of the West Indies goes in terms of sports scholarships. I certainly hope that that happens very soon indeed.
Could you now imagine what happens in the 1st World, especially those countries that have sport as their greatest achievements, like the United States of America and Australia? What they do is to bend backward to accommodate anyone with a modicum of sporting talent. Here in the Caribbean, generally, we stifle even potential excellence.
There has been a thought that we are in the 3rd World. I submit that with that type of thinking, we are not yet in the 13th world, so any promotion to the 3rd is very premature. For the moment, let us just forget 2020 and the 1st World!! To get there, we do not only have to change personnel in many places, but more particularly, we have to change the way we think.
Gone are the days when Queens Royal College, Fatima College and all of the better schools in Trinidad & Tobago, or Queen?s College, St. Stanislaus and Central High in Guyana, or Lodge School in Barbados, or Woolmer?s and Kingston College in Jamaica, would be producing the Arthur Wints, Michael Holdings, Brian Laras and all of the rest of us who have actually played every sport available, with both sexes, in the primary and high schools and still managed to pass all of our examinations. That is a depressing situation for the future of sports in the region.
Some of the schools in the Caribbean have gone so far as to do away with sports departments, sports masters and sports altogether and no-one knows from where the new sportsmen and women are going to emerge.
We will always find people who want to do and play sport, but with more encouragement from the parents, we would have so many more, maybe triple that which are presently available, to select from, even though many of them will not make the grade. As a famous sports-caster in Guyana, B.L. Crombie, used to say: ?It is not about winning or losing, but just playing the game and how you play that game.? He must be turning in his grave now when he hears of the monies available for being very mediocre in sports.
One very pleasing phenomenon is the fact that many of your young sports people are having scholarships given to them to attend foreign universities. Most of them deserve these, since they would have played hockey or basketball or volleyball etc., to some relatively high level, to be noticed by scouts from these universities. Of course, they must be somewhat academically minded too, to pass the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and other such mandatory entrance examinations.
I have no problem with that at all, since many of them would get wonderful training, education, inducement of the correct attitude to life and tremendous opportunities. The fact is that too few of these actually get there. If the parents, generally, had been more involved and perhaps more accommodating and encouraging, no-one really knows how many more would not have been able to benefit similarly.
The other side of that coin is that quite a few of those who leave these shores for overseas schooling never return. More worrying is the fact that many of them also never graduate, but that, thankfully, is in the minority.
Additionally, many of them also go to the foreign schools to do some sports that would never benefit the Caribbean. Some take up American Football (Grid Iron) and baseball and might do well as the individual player, but that does not help the player?s original country. Basketball is in the same league when it comes to that. While we hear of Tim Duncan and the other Caribbean basketball stars, one wonders how that could influence the players in the Caribbean, especially those who want to play the traditional sports of perhaps cricket, hockey, tennis and soccer. At least, people like Dwight Yorke have returned in the past to play for T&T.
So, as a parent, as a former West Indies cricketer who managed to be a Teacher, an Air Traffic Controller, a Junior Engineer and an Airline Pilot, not to mention Sports Journalist, among other things, all at nearly the same time, or at least with continuing study and exposure, I challenge anyone to tell me that sport and academics cannot do well together. This is not about boasting, since I was not even scholastically minded. I just studied hard.