Preventing individuals from turning to a life of crime must be a better option that trying to deal with criminals. Over the weekend, I attended a meeting of the Jabloteh Sports club in San Juan, where the challenges of proper sporting facilities were brought up. After over 30 years of providing sporting opportunities for the community of San Juan, Jabloteh still does not have a club house or access to proper sporting facilities.
Over the years, clubs throughout Trinidad and Tobago have struggled to have access to proper facilities. They encounter difficulty in accessing funds to feed and equip the hundreds of young people that access their services.
I remember being asked to visit a training session of our young netballers at the Jean Pierre Complex. Once again there were hundreds of young women training in netball. Most, if not all, of the coaches and managers were donating their services for free. There was an absence of adequate equipment and more importantly the netball facilities had deteriorated to below international standards.
In almost every aspect of our sporting disciplines the story is the same; there is an absence of proper facilities and very little government support.
If we were serious about steering our youths away from a life of crime, the professional football league would not be suffering from lack of sponsors and inadequate media coverage. Our netballers would not be struggling for basics like poles, nets and balls. Our swimmers would not be longing for pools in their communities. Our cricketers would not be playing on poorly maintained pitches on outfields loaded with weed. Our school cricket and football leagues would not be totally dependent on the teachers and supporters who volunteer their time to ensure that the competitions are organized. Our athletes would not be forced to train abroad just to be competitive internationally.
To the volunteers who leave their home each day support and encourage our youths, I thank you. Thanks to the businessman who gives of his time and money to maintain the St Ann’s Rangers. Thanks to the staff and management of Jabloteh who volunteer their time and resources to encourage the youths in the San Juan area to participate in football and netball. Thanks to the football club in Moruga, the cricket clubs in Barrackpore and Penal, the swimming club on Westmoorings, the hiking organizations, the hockey and tennis clubs and the many other volunteers from all over Trinidad and Tobago that give of their time and money to provide alternatives to crime for our youths. These volunteers are our national heroes who do their bit with only minor victories as rewards.
I wish our government could understand that investment in sports and our youths is critical to developing our society. Sports not only promotes healthy habits, it builds communities, provide income and career opportunities for many, contributes to national pride and moreover builds lifelong relationships that withstand the challenges of ethnic, religious and political divisions. Sports should be a major pillar in rebuilding Trinidad and Tobago.
God bless our nation.