Experts have all agreed that youths who play sports have higher self-esteem, stronger connections with their schools, better peer relationships, and fewer behavioral problems. The discipline and training needed to participate in sports will help to develop successful adults. Athletes learn the importance of teamwork and to follow leadership. The New Democratic Party (NDP) has recognized this fact and will work relentlessly to ensure that sport has a place of prominence on the development agenda.
We are cognizant of the benefits of sports to the economy of St. Vincent and Grenadines and the society in general. In an online article on the, Importance of Sports for Economy, the writer opined, “Today sport emerges as an important component of socio-economic development of a country. The active participation in sports improves community health and productivity, reduces medical expenses, imbibes discipline in character, generates great leaders, and enhances social cohesion. The execution of a mega sporting event helps in developing infrastructure, generates employment, secure inflow of foreign capital, generates players and athletes, and thus contributes significantly to the economic development of a country.”
Our mission is to facilitate the emergence of a culture of sports through the elevation of sports as a significant pillar of national development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We appreciate the importance of sports to our youths, athletes, our people and our country, and we further recognize that early achievements in sports as a means for our young people to achieve higher education and better livelihoods. The youths of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will benefit immensely from our impressive sports programme; including in the programme, will be opportunities for college and university education of our young people. We will create a diversify scholarship portfolio by providing incentives and scholarships for youths who excel in sports. And most importantly, we will ensure that meaningful employment is created for these youths after they have completed their studies.
During the former NDP administration, St. Vincent and the Grenadines had established itself as a force to be reckoned with in sports. We were regionally and world rated in football and in netball. We produced West Indies cricketers. We were sending track and field athletes in increasing numbers on athletic scholarships and to international competitions. However, over the past nineteen years, our standing has declined drastically, as a result of neglect and lack of a proper vision for sports development. This is seen in the steady deterioration of playing facilities across the length and breadth of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the fading away of interest in various forms of organized sporting events.
The NDP will implement a number of policies and programmes that will aid in the development of sports. We will reorganize the National Sport Council and review the national sports policy. The National Sport Council has become something of a political football much to the detriment of the national sport development process. In addition, the National Sport Council has been narrowly focused on cricket in recent years. the National Sports Council will convene a special committee to redesign and redevelop the organization and diversify its focus, ensuring that the National Sport Council is managed by appropriately qualified personnel who will lead and work in the interest of all stakeholders.
The NDP will also develop a framework for upgrading and management of sports facilities at constituency and community level. The NDP will implement a Service, Opportunity and Support (SOS) framework, which will ensure that sporting facilities are upgraded to accommodate their respective sporting disciplines. Community Sport Councils must be developed and sustained, eagerly taking ownership of the maintenance of the established facilities and supporting the programmes for physical activity and sport in their respective communities. In addition, we will develop at least one playing field in each constituency to the extent that it can accommodate regionally organized sports; these facilities will be fully lit and will have stands and changing facilities. And develop projects to convert the surfaces of playing fields into artificial surfaces, particularly in areas where grass does not grow properly.
Some of the other areas of development that the NDP will focus on include the construction of a national indoor sports complex, floored with special sport flooring materials, to accommodate sports such as basketball, volleyball, netball, tennis and squash; implement a structure that ensures a proper foundation for youth development of elite athletes; provide effective system of sports medicine. Establish an institution that caters for athletes who have displayed the capacity to excel in their respective sporting disciplines; provide schooling within this institution; provide appropriate coaches to facilitate the enhancement of the athletes at the institution and develop a strong research and development component of this institution to a much higher level at the competitive arena. As a result, the NDP will construct a National Aquatic Centre to attract national, regional and international competitions and to grow the sports locally. Meanwhile, the NDP congratulates the Swimming Association for the tremendous job it has been doing. Also, Sports will form part of the curricula within the schools from the primary level. Students will be taught sports as a discipline, and skilled personnel will be employed to teach physical education.
The Unity Labour Party government has failed miserably in developing sports in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The NDP is committed to the development of sports and young people. The youths of this country can rest assured that there is a brighter future for them with the NDP. As Dr. Friday said that the NDP is about creating a brighter future for the youths of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A future of lasting change where dreams and aspirations are real. The NDP will make SVG work for all the youths.