50 years later, no youth team sports in our communities

50 years later, team sports lacking youth development component 

By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway

50 years ago, the greatest sporting development in the history of the territory was in progress with the formation of seven sporting associations between 1970-79. Athletics in 1970; Tennis (1971); Netball (1972); Sailing (1973); Basketball (1974); Football (1974) and Volleyball, (1979). Cricket (1945) and Softball (1952) had long been established and played in various communities.

From Greenland to Baughers Bay, Road Town, Sea Cows Bay, Capoons Bay, Cane Garden Bay and Brewers Bay, there was a bevy of team sports activities with leagues played particularly in Softball and Cricket, then later in Netball throughout the territory. Team sports thrived and youths were the driving force, as players competed for their spots.

Fast forward 50 years later, when there are more opportunities—to play at night, to travel, get a college education, represent the territory internationally, play semi-pro or professional—there are no youth development leagues organized by team sports associations within our communities.

Associations and their executives—which are affiliated to their regional and international governing bodies—are responsible for the development of sports from the cradle to the grave. However, our team sports associations—Basketball, Cricket, Softball, Volleyball—in particular, resort solely to organizing a league, but don’t focus on programs and youth development, thus stifling growth.

Last month, we saw 11-12 and 13-14 track and field athletes competing in the NACAC Championships in Nicaragua. However, as in the past, in our team sports, there are NO school based league or community competitions organized by team sports associations for these same age groups and above, 50 years after these associations were formed.   

Isn’t the skill set within these organizations to develop our youth and give them an opportunity to experience, explore opportunities in sports? Many will bark about having facilities. However, what’s really needed are programs. For example, the Multipurpose Sports Complex opened in 2004, yet there are no youth programs in place for the sport that uses the facility and because there are no programs, these sports can’t field adequate teams for U20 competitions.

Persons like Milton McLean, Ronnie “Gola” Norman and Trevor “West” Stevens on Virgin Gorda for example, must be commended for the work that they have done with youth basketball in particular. Unfortunately over the years, the federation has now worked these grassroots programs into their development plans.

In order for sports to thrive, the following must take place and there must be accountability. Sports depend on youth involvement. There must be a written vision that the organization follows. Each of our team sports executives must develop and implement a plan for their respective sports, catering to boys and girls U11-U23, filling the gaps between seniors. The plan must also include a quarterly component. Persons on executives must fulfill their respective roles and that’s where the skillset comes in. Identify who leads planning and development; research; organize sports administration and coaching courses and establish a statistical database. This basic foundation will change our sports, if the executives themselves in our sports, are willing to make the changes.