Balanced approach, a must for sport

The old saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”’ has slipped into sport in Guyana at a time least expected. On the local scene, sport covers a vast number of disciplines which are driven most times by fierce competition and the instinctive desire to win.

The dynamics of sport are so unique since it is the athletes who fuel the excitement which lures the countless number of fans while the facilities give players a chance to perform at their optimum and spectators to be at comfort. Such ideology should be made applicable on how sport in the country is developed, as focus in one area while neglecting the others would not augur well for comprehensive success.

The Government of Guyana in the 2017 Budget pledged $536,979,000 to sport as compared to $295,460,000 in 2016. In addition, the National Sports Commission (NSC) was awarded $215,000,000 compared to $178,699,000 in 2016 for current expenditure.

The sports projects and activities that are listed under capital expenditure in the Budget for 2017 include various plans to improve facilities across the country.

More so, Minister with responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport, Nicolette Henry disclosed at the budget presentations that $210 million was proposed for synthetic track facilities to be laid in Regions Two, Four, Six, Seven and 10.

The Minister stated that the 2017 Budget made “provisions for support to our athletes to benefit from training and development exposure”.

The Minister did not elaborate or mention the specific programmes or initiatives that will be implemented towards achieving this end, or say what direct support would be given to the athletes, or say what was allocated towards achieving this goal.

President of the Athletics Association of Guyana (AAG), Aubrey Huston made the valid argument that although he applauded the move to have synthetic tracks built across Guyana, more emphasis should have been placed on actual athlete development in terms of qualifying coaches and giving athletes more international exposure.

There is the synthetic track at Leonora, which was commissioned since April 2015 and the facility has not had the presence of the National School Track and Field Championships because of “logistical reasons” explained by organisers which are extended to the fact that most of the athletes do not have the proper or any footwear to use the facility.

Could there not be a move to place funds into solving these “logistical issues” to hopefully nurture some of the nation’s talents at an international graded facility?

In addition, considering the cream of the crop of the country’s athletes comes from Regions Four and 10, the building of tracks in areas such as Regions Two and Seven is bewildering.

A football stadium would more suit these areas, as they have been known to produce excellent footballers, but a lack of facilities combined with a lack of expert coaching hamper some of these players from taking their skills to the next level.

In Region Four, which has the nucleus of sportsmen and women in Guyana, there are numerous facilities (some in need of upgrade), but there are hardly any regular camps or training programmes being held to develop players.

One is reminded that the National Under-15 footballers recently went to French Guiana and lost all of their matches and the technical staff gave several reasons for the disappointing performance, among them the uniqueness of the surface since they played on artificial turf. Also, the players had difficulties in gelling with technical plays being implemented by the coaching staff.

Before departure, some of the players who originated from hinterland locations spoke of never being part of a structured programme or having coaches to teach them to play the correct way. Players from the East Coast Demerara clubs shared similar sentiments.

Guyanese swimmers have made the Olympics, but have failed to progress to the next round of any event. Why? Not because of the lack of an Olympic sized pool but rather the swimmers not being exposed to expert coaching to develop their undoubted talent.

Many of these players certainly showcased raw talent, but they are in desperate need of having the learned personnel groom them.

Without a doubt, better facilities are needed for sports in Guyana, but one cannot neglect the human element needed to further success, as having several stadia, pools and sophisticated equipment will only do so much if the ones who have to use them are not trained in that regard.