The easiest way to achieve these aims is to start immediately a comprehensive holistic schools swim programme that aims at engaging unprecedented numbers in swimming even when contrasted with other more traditional sports.
No longer must swimming be viewed as the preserve of the privileged few if Saint Lucian swimming is to become a real force in regional and hemispheric swimming.
As a start the proposed Grade 3 swim programme mooted under the stewardship of the past president of the Saint Lucia Amateur Swimming Association (SLASA), Dr. Marcus Day needs to be started this September. Since this programme will be, a learn to swim programme a list of pools must be identified throughout the island by July.
This programme can be marketed amongst the corporate community for massive sponsorship in order to ensure that all Grade 3 students are involved in this programme as has been pointed out in a previous article
The Ministry of Education must come on board immediately if the aim of teaching the students to swim and water safe is to be successful. This will have the effect of reducing the number of drowning on our beaches annually as well as allowing our youngsters to have fun at the beach in a safe way.
Teaching school students to swim will have the effect of introducing a new skill which can assist in the fighting the growing pandemic of childhood obesity which is growing among our nation’s youth.
This programme will add to the number of potential competitive swimmers in Saint Lucia outside of the limited circle from which they are presently drawn and lay the groundwork for a real mass based schools swim programme which can attract hundreds in the various schools swim meets.
The present District Schools swim programme in the south which involves all grades in the primary schools, secondary schools and pre-schools must also be expanded and replicated throughout Saint Lucia as much as possible.
A serious competitive swim programme will attract far more potential regional champions than our clubs have so far been able to do. The example of track and field in Jamaica is instructive in this regard as all of that country’s many Olympic medallists and finalists are the product of a highly competitive school programme.
Not only must the schools swim programme be revised in a manner to make it an attractive, quality product which involves in excess of one thousand students, it must be a holistic programme starting at the learn to swim programme, with a mass based competitive programme producing regional level swimmers at the upper levels of the programme.
In order to produce such a programme, a schools swimseason must be established to the focus on schools and not clubs. For starters, this programme can run for 6 weeks then be extended to 8 weeks.
As at present there should be a primary school and a secondary school meet with other dual, triangular and quadrangular meets. This should culminate as a relay carnival which would featuring special individual invitational events.
The relay carnival would involve not only primary and secondary schools, but also tertiary institutions such as Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and the various Medical Schools based on the island especially in the south.
The establishment of a programme for tertiary institutions would complement the Government of Saint Lucia’s (GoSL) stated intention to turn Vieux Fort into a University Town. A pool in Vieux Fort would assist in establishing this objective as a sports programme, including swimming can be an important and integral part of all such institutions.
A schools programme will compliment, the swim clubs, but must never be seen as an adjunct to any club and/or swim facility.
Physical education teachers will have to be trained as swim instructors and new swim coaches trained if the proposed schools programme is to become a reality.
Indeed any University Town would need to offer certificate, diploma and degree programme’s in physical education and sports including swimming.
An important aspect of the dominant U.S. swim programme is its superb schools programme.
Add St. Lucia News Online on Blackberry Messenger (2A983D96); follow us on Twitter (twitter.com/slunewsonline) and like us on Facebook (facebook.com/stlucianewsonline) for breaking stories and news as it is posted.