|National sports education program urged|
Guardian Columnist/Sales Executive
Published: Jun 27, 2012
The time has come for the country to invest in a national sports education program. There are a number of options, ranging from a two-year vocational college to something as grand as the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS).
The AIS would be out of our league at this time. It's a high class, very expensive model for bringing about peak performances and top quality athletic development. The physical base alone for the AIS requires more annual funding that our country allocates for the entire national program. AIS has its "main headquarters" in the Australian capital territory of Canberra and centers in major cities such as Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Melbourne.
Upward of 30 sporting programs that provide education of some 26 sports, make up the curriculum. Top young male and female athletes are offered scholarships each year to attend AIS. That's huge for us, but we could start on a lower rung as did Jamaica. Once there was a speedy Jamaican. His name was Dennis Johnson and he was noted for his rolling start out of the blocks. Johnson had his roll out of the blocks down to a science, with his take-off coinciding with the gun. Rarely was he called for a false start. He was one of the Caribbean's outstanding sprinters during the 1960s, a contemporary of Bahamian legend Tommy Robinson.
Johnson studied in the United States at San Jose State University, the so-called "speed city" of the period. His vision was to establish a sports training/development program that followed the design of the colleges/universities in the United States. What Johnson started as a two-year program grew into Jamaica's University of Technology (UTECH).
The program in Jamaica is not as advanced in technology and other amenities, as those who operate it would like. Yet, it is a commodity that has had a lot to do with that nation now without a doubt being the leader in sprint development throughout the world. A lot of the young athletes still opt for going abroad for higher education and training, but more and more it is becoming common for the homegrown talent of Jamaica to do well against the best the world has to offer.
Jamaica has climbed very close to Cuba at the top in Caribbean sports development because of the UTECH initiative. In Cuba, there is an even more advanced sports educational/development program. This is the area we here in The Bahamas now need to explore. The sports industry has gotten that big. I had a chat with triple jump star Leevan Sands on Friday past before he got into his warm-up routine prior to competition during the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations' (BAAA) National Championships.
He is a full-time athlete, one of the quality ones from this era. He owns two world championship bronze medals and an Olympic bronze medal to go with his regional achievements. Sands will be 31 in August of this year. He is now a seasoned veteran who thinks a lot about what the
future holds for him, once his career is over.
"That's always on my mind. Competition and training takes up all of your time. This is a full-time business. When you are not competing, you are doing some preparation, something to keep the condition. This is my life. What will happen after? I really don't know at this time,” said Sands.
Let's think about the 47-year-old Laverne Eve, the 41-year-old Chandra Sturrup and the 36-year-old Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie. Chris Brown will be 34 in August. The aforementioned and more would be available to move from the competitive circuit to the arena of sports education to help boost future generations to higher heights in sports. The ‘Invest in Bahamians’ theme of the Government of The Bahamas must include expanding our sports industry. I urge the powers that be to begin thinking about a national sports education program.
It could be similar to Jamaica's UTECH. We could take a bit from the Australian Institute of Sports. Whatever the format, I say the time has arrived to move in that direction.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com)