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Families coming back to sports again
The efforts by all the sporting associations in this country to involve the entire family in sporting activities is now starting to bear fruit as sport is on the rise up the social ladder in this country. Being a sports journalist for the past 15 years, I have sat, listened, and interviewed hundreds of officials, with all saying basically the same mantra that in order for sport to develop the family must be involved.
Many of the sporting associations have used this strategy to build their sport and in some cases revive their once flourishing sport. On Thursday night, I was driving along Papourie Road in Diamond Village, San Fernando, with my two sons when the elder Liam, at the age of eight, told me: “Dad look at that cricket ground, so many people, it is beautiful.” The younger, Aidan, aged five, wanted me to stop and take him onto the playing field. Whether or not it was to delay his imminent date with his bed or just to be part of the action, I will never know.
However, it made me take a closer look at what was going on at Kennedy Park that night. What I saw did not surprise me but left me very happy indeed because I know fully well how the struggle has been by sports administrators to get the family involved in sport again. While the F&E Diamond cricket club was practising out in the middle at about 8.19 pm—and, by the way, they need the practice (having lost their first two matches in the top flight of T&T’s cricket by over 100 runs)—there were many people just looking on, some walking around the park, some playing cricket games with their youngsters and there were some children even reading in the pavilion.
I guess at that time, with dinner already taken care of, some of the mothers were there as well and it was a very energetic environment indeed. Last Saturday, the T&T Cricket Board (TTCB) pulled a master stroke by sending the top club in Trinidad, Queen’s Park Cricket Club, to play at Kennedy Park. Prior to the game, cars mounted with microphones drove around the village (which is still a very effective community information service in the rural areas) and announced that Queen’s Park was coming to play. Fans started to arrive at the ground from about 10 am and when the action got underway at 10.30 am a tassa group was already on hand greeting anything of note with beautiful rhythmic sounds.
As the day progressed, villagers started to come in droves and by mid-afternoon one could have hardly accessed the road adjoining the facility that leads to Monkey Town in Barrackpore. Six cars pulled up below a huge mango tree and guys started a chulha fire, and duck was on the menu. While they looked at the cricket, their wives engaged in talk and the children were running about enjoying the evening. Despite the fact that the home team lost, the legacy left by the Queen’s Park visit was evident on Thursday night by the attraction the ground had become. We all know that involving youngsters in meaningful activities will keep them out of crime and getting the family involved will provide that extra motivation to do well.
I remember a couple of years ago there was a very vibrant football league organised by sports administrator Patrick Rampersad in Diego Martin. That league was shelved in the last three to four years because the ground was being upgraded. Diego Martin, as we all know, is one of the crime hotspots in this country and a number of young people used to take part in the football league. When two top teams were playing, you could find as many as 2,000 spectators at the facilities, some even on the roadway taking in the action.
After the football ended, some of the young men who were turning the corner, “reversed right back” to untoward activities and now, sadly, are with us no more. Some of the others who are lucky to still be alive are now behind prison bars. Rampersad had alluded to me that he knew some of the guys who were starting to catch the football fever and became very involved in their teams. When their teams were no more, they turned to bad company and this led to their demise.
This is just another case to show the value of sport in attacking crime and leading to a better lifestyle. A check with Keith Clement, the commissioner of the Hoop for Life sporting programme, will show that this is already starting to pay dividends. Crowds are turning up to these matches and healthy rivalries are starting to pop up and guys are not settling their battles with guns but with baskets on the basketball courts. Players are now being looked up to and are free to go into rival neighbourhoods. Such in the power of sport. The future is exciting in this aspect.
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