Excelling at sports By Michael DaSilva
Stabroek News
January 11, 2004

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If Guyanese are to get to the top of any sport, be it indoor or outdoor and maintain that position, talent and natural ability must be supplemented and fortified by other innovations and this is why a comprehensive national sports programme is essential.

Proper nutrition, training facilities, coaching, mental training (sports psychology), strong leadership and administration, and finance among others are definitely needed.

Most governments recognise amateur sports as a vehicle that provides a safe environment, whereby children and youth can learn important skills and habits such as team work, self discipline, fair play, dependability and the pursuit of excellence in working towards and accomplishing challenging goals. Sport participation provides an opportunity for our youths to participate with others and to expend energies in a positive way.

It recognises that quality- sport participation can have a profound effect on healthy child development, and that children and youth that are active in sport are more likely to develop a sense of responsibility and are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviour. At the national level, it is important to make a better connection between sport, education and health, using a holistic approach to sport development. It is also important to focus on all the key elements such as parents, coaches, youth, schools and recreation.

There is evidence that both recreation and sport not only prevent problems, but also enhance normal childhood development. There is also evidence that children and youth who are involved in sports do better in school and are less likely to engage in socially unacceptable behaviour.

The names George Melville, Nicolette Fernandes, Damien DaSilva and Coreen Thomas and Senika Wahab readily come to mind.

Understanding the developmental needs of children and youth is crucial for the development of programmes that will allow full and comfortable participation.

Fun is the number one reason that children and youth participate in sports. Not having fun, whether it is because of lack of confidence or a too rigid and demanding environment, is one of the key reasons many young people leave; hence the need for a holistic approach.

Holistic takes into account the following elements:

(i) mental - such as quizzes on nutrition, rules of the game and strategy;

(ii) emotional - such as building esteem through emphasising success in a variety of ways or just having fun;

(iii) spiritual - such as making a connection between the mind and the body as many of the martial artists do

(iv) physical - which includes activity and skill development.

Skill development that is consistent with age and mental ability is the best foundation for the development of elite athletes. But for all of this to be accomplished, partnerships between the corporate community and sports organisations need to be established. Getting corporate sponsors interested is difficult but not impossible; one has to ensure that the interest of the corporation coincides with the interest of the sport organisation.