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UWI sport conference was timely
The UWI conference on Sport Studies and Higher Education, January 15-17, 2014, was both timely and informative as scholars from North America, Lebanon, South Africa and the Caribbean discussed sport through different lenses-sociology, psychology, management, economics, tourism, law, medicine, sport science, gender, development and the media.
It was evident that there is more to sport than what takes place on the field of play as CLR James discussed in his classic work Beyond a Boundary in 1963.
In delivering the keynote, distinguished sport sociologist Professor Emeritus Jay Coakley drawing upon his vast experience of sport research, called for the employment of a critical framework upon which sport studies should be conducted.
Using such a critical approach to sport studies will not only examine the underlying assumptions about the inherent powers of sport but will also ensure that probing questions are consistently asked of sport administrators and all involved in every aspect of sport.
Therefore, it should not be taken for granted that sport would automatically contribute to building character and teaching the norms and values of honesty and hard work as is commonly believed by those who treat sport as having quasi-religious powers.
Furthermore, such a critical approach will also serve to regulate those who seek to use sport to serve their own political and economic interests. For instance, who really benefits from hosting mega-events or the construction of expensive sporting facilities?
How do we measure the success and identify the long term benefits of hosting mega-events other than what we are told by politicians and the CEO’s of Local Organising Committee’s?
Would the Brian Lara stadium, which has cost taxpayers’ billions of dollars, be completed before the next cricket World Cup in Australia/New Zealand in 2015? This stadium was to be completed in 2006 for practice matches for the 2007 Cricket World Cup!
Was there ever any consultation on this project? Could the money already spent have been used to develop facilities throughout the two islands so that more persons could participate in sport and physical activities?
The practicality of developing sport tourism in T&T and the wider Caribbean was discussed from several perspectives. The general consensus among the panelists was that for sport tourism to become a viable development option it has to be treated as a serious business venture and must be integrated into the overall tourism development policy.
For instance, what are the plans for the national aquatic centre, cycling velodrome and tennis centre in terms of becoming training facilities for professional athletes and teams from other parts of the world? Will this targeted clientele be guaranteed convenience in accommodation, transport and other amenities?
Akilah Carter-Francique discussed the importance of sport participation as a means of having a positive impact on the health and wellness of Black females in the US. Such a study is not only important in the US but should also be conducted in the Caribbean where the scope is widened to cover multiple social and economic statuses such as age, social class, religion, and geographical location.
It is critical that such data is collected as it can have positive impact not only on the health of females but also on the costs of preventative health care. Exercise and physical activities once organised and promoted in an appealing manner does have potential towards aiding the fight against some of the lifestyle diseases that are affecting the region’s population such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity especially among children.
The panel on sport and the media stressed upon the importance of sport journalists engaging in investigative and critical analysis of the sporting discipline/s they cover.
Investigative sport journalism offers multiple benefits similar to the functions the media perform in other areas of society such as politics and the economy.
Sport journalist have the potential to function as public regulators on those who wield sporting power, provide an important voice for athletes, contribute to the development of sporting disciplines and reinforce the status of the respective media houses they represent. In other words, sport journalists have to develop creative ways to capture and invigorate audiences who use traditional and or social media.
There was no doubt by the end of the conference that some strides had been made in bringing diverse areas of sport research under one theme-interdisciplinary approach.
The challenge now is to ensure that the several research projects which are being undertaken become part of the stock of sport research knowledge for future students.
Additionally, and equally important is that this knowledge is used by policymakers and administrators in their decision-making and is made available to the general public.