Uphill challange faced by sporting community
Eight-year-old Angel Pratt of North Andros is a prime example of the great wealth of talent to be found in the Family Islands. Over and over, in this space, the lack of focus on the many, many young boys and girls in the islands who possess incredible ‘raw’ talent in athletics, has been lamented.
It seems though that only a small segment of the national sporting community is paying any attention. Generally, too many seem to be content with the success of New Providence athletes, and are not interested in doing the work to enable this country to at least double its top performances worldwide in every sports discipline.
It is a ridiculous situation. The view here is that the time has come for a culture change. This is true in every aspect of our society, but definitely in sports. I believe it is the Ministry of Sports, which through the Government of The Bahamas, has the resources to take the lead in a positive sports recruitment approach in the Family Islands.
Pratt was phenomenal during the historic Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) Fun Run/Walk event this past Saturday in North Andros. She has a very slight built and with an unassuming character, Angel seems almost invisible. But, there she was during the event, out-striding everyone with the exception of the seasoned Shelton Barr.
There are countless young boys and girls just like Angel in the Family Islands. She is special, but not an exception. The Family Islands breed her kind.
There is a collective responsibility. I told a group of persons associated with the BOC Fun Run/Walk that the sports leaders in the Family Islands have the first obligation. When they discover that they have in their midst, unique talents, they ought to then make the appropriate representation to the respective Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture personnel stationed in the islands.
The process of communication should then include the hierarchy of the sports ministry in the capital and then the particular federation. Putting in place sports officers in the various strategic island locations was important to the national sports development program.
However, there is a much bigger picture than simply the coordination of the individual island programs. The emergence of sports prodigies is nothing new to life in the Family Islands. Many of them over the years though, have fallen through the cracks because nothing has been put in place to sustain them. Only in rare cases when some dedicated family member or coach took on the sacrifice and hard work to push an island athlete have national and international prominence resulted.
The system has fallen down badly. It has failed miserably in canvassing a large percentage of dynamic athletic talents from the Family Islands’ pool. It is a question of funding, certainly. This means that central administrations must come to grips with the fact that the national sports program should be treated financially, just like tourism, education and health. It is that important to the proper growth and development of this country.
If that happens, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture will be able to better fortify its overall administrative program in the Family Islands. Then, fewer of our talented ones would ‘fall through the cracks.’ Accordingly, instead of 10 medals at regional and international youth/junior competitions, The Bahamas would win 20 or more.
On the senior level, The Bahamas would win a handful of medals at the Olympic and World Championships level rather than one or two, as has been the case. Such is the potential of this country.
Youth, Sports and Culture Minister Charles Maynard would do well to find out as much as he can about Angel Pratt and others like her in the Family Islands and then make representation to the Cabinet of The Bahamas. Just as there is the all-important Subvention Program that aids the elite athletes of the country, something of the kind should be established, with a focus on nurturing and securing the Angel Pratts of the Family Islands for the future.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at [email protected])