Today our young sportsmen and women in rural and urban communities across Guyana are experiencing the worst period of sports development in the history of Guyana.
During the period of Colonial rule the sugar estates communities were beneficiaries of community centres and playfields that were used by the expatriates and other residents working and residing on the Estates, these facilities were made available by the management of the Bookers Company who were owners of the Sugar estates during the colonial era. During this period the sugar estate games were annually well organized and attracted participants from sugar estates all across British Guiana, this was a period when as a nation we were a force to be reckoned with in the Caribbean in the field of sports.
Since the favourite sport of the British at the time was cricket, the Estate Administration and the colonial Government ensured that one of Barbados’s finest batsmen Sir Clyde Walcott was assigned to coach and work with the cricket administrations across the sugar estates, this resulted in the production of some of our finest cricketers.
The inter Estate annual athletics championship was a wonderful spectacle to experience and it was held rotationally on the Sugar estates grounds across Guyana, resulting in the production of super athletes such as Harry Powell, Clem Fields, Rocky McPherson, Moses Dwarka and many others.
When the PNC came to power in the 1960s, we saw the annual promotions of the Guymine, Guystac, Public Service and the Joint Services Games, these were well organized and communities all across Guyana supported these games, we experienced a National Sports Development Council that had a large number of paid coaches and sports organizers working in communities strengthening and forming sports clubs and sports associations all across Guyana, resulting in very low levels of criminal activities across Guyana. These were the times when we took Gold medals at the Commonwealth Games with sprinter James Wren Gilkes and boxer Winfield Braithwaite at the Commonwealth Games, this was a time when many young men and women seized the opportunity to join the National Service to be trained in skills that ensured their contribution to National Development, this entity also boasted a dynamic sports and cultural programme that continuously attracted young people and guided them to the development of our hinterland where lies the bulk of our nation’s wealth. It was during this era that June Griffith an athlete out of Buxton trained by lawyer Martin Stephenson produced a stunning run at the Pan American Games to be edged out at the tape by Merlene Ottey of Jamaica in the 200 metres for the gold, she took the silver medal. This tells us that given the perfect athletic track we can produce athletes of the calibre of Usain Bolt. Our young people need opportunities to excel.
It was during the 1970s to 1980s that our athletes and boxers dominated in the Caribbean championships, these were the days when sports gear was made available to sportsmen and women and those who were working were given time off to participate in competitions whether it be public or private sector companies, such was the policy of the Government then, sportsmen and women in the public sector could have gotten their sports gear on an hire purchase system, which saw them paying affordable installments to cover the cost of the equipment purchased. Today things are falling apart, Guysuco no longer gives the kind of attention that is required to ensure the suitability of these grounds and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport seems oblivious to the fact that our youth population is exploding and as such we need more equipped playing facilities. Housing Schemes are going up all over Guyana to accommodate young families without any consideration for the development of recreation facilities and manpower to ensure these become operational benefiting our young people.
We can eliminate crime if as guardians of the state we treat our young people as though they are our children, when we begin to think this way we can eliminate extreme deviance among our youthful population.
In little Barbados with very little natural resources every school has access to well groomed playfields, 75% with permanent floodlights making it possible for community clubs to use them at nights. We are failing our young people miserably in the sporting arena, let’s bring an end to this trend.
RAS Aaron Blackman