Thursday 30 May 2013

Carribean Sports Fever - How A New UK Initiative is Nurturing the Islands Hidden Talents

Ok, so the British Summer is around the corner, well you would think on some days but then on others you're disappointedly whipping out the winter wardrobe again. But.... usually summer time means the emergence of more active sporting activities with the more tolerable temperatures and prolonged lighter evenings in our favour. But some places out there in this big wide world, really, in the one outside your back garden, the gym or your local park or playground, are missing out on sporting opportunities due to their poor or otherwise non existent sports infrastructure.

You remember the London 2012 Olympic or Paralympics last summer...Wasn't it fantastic! I certainly did as I was lucky enough to be a Games Maker myself.

What I witnessed was how the reserved social dynamics of the allegedly aloofness of the host city of London magically transformed into a friendly hub of excitement, aspiration and patriotic pride in the greatest sporting summer the little Isles of Wonder had ever seen. That's sport for you. Uniting a blend of races, nationalities, background and disabilities from every spectrum in the greatest display of the abilities of a human being.

If they're given the opportunity to showcase it of course. 

I went out to Ghana, West Africa in 2007 as a gap year volunteer to participate in a coaching project to teach deprived communities how to play tennis, a privilege I only realised I should be grateful for after witnessing the mass realism of sporting poverty out in the real world. The injustice and undeserving situation many children are facing is the biggest obstacle of all - lack of equipment and lack of support. I would have been the same if I wasn't lucky enough to have been given a tennis racket as a nine year old and given money to pay my tennis coach.

You see, I felt like we have become such a throw away consuming society, knowing that what we didn't use in Britain could enhance the life of a less fortunate person in another part of the world, distracting them from a negative lifestyle such as crime or a doomed street life. Hope is what it can bring them.

'We can't have that, people missing out just because they don't have a tennis racket and a ball.' I would think, wincing at the sight of Ghanaian children generously sharing rackets to take turns to play, some even broken.

I grew frustrated knowing that perfectly good unused tennis rackets were collecting dust somewhere at home in peoples garages, attics and cupboards under the stairs which were begging for an incentive to be passed on - which could unveil the undiscovered raw talent of African youngster.

Just check out this recent high jump competition from a Kenyan School's Sports Day....

Not too bad is it?

That same year I founded my own cool campaign 'Africa Tennis Aid' (formerly Ghana Tennis Aid) which for four years made annual appeals for unwanted tennis and sports equipment to be sent out to communities in Ghana, Uganda and Sierra Leone via visiting individuals and sponsored freights.

That's what they say 'Your junk could be someone else's treasure'....  its a pretty cool feeling to help out and we all could do it.

So this blog post is to tell you about Joe Page, an industrious sports volunteer I met way back on the Ghana Tennis Project who has done just that by starting his very own post-trip sporting initiative in the UK to help to drive his passion to develop sports in St. Lucia with his company 'Caribbean Coaching'  

'Myself and my business partner Joel Martin, Caribbean Coaching is a company dedicated to developing sport in the Caribbean. We provide coaching placements for gap year students, aspiring coaches and sports enthusiasts, creating the opportunity to fully experience the culture and beauty of the Caribbean, whilst coaching the sport they love from a grassroots to a national level, adding invaluable experience to their C.V's'

'Currently working in St Lucia, we offer placements in Rugby, Cricket, Netball and Football, having formed partnerships with their respectable governing bodies, local governments and charities.'

Caribbean Coaching was sown from the seed of the work Joe and his business partner undertook with the St. Lucian Rugby Union a few years ago. They endeavoured to aid the development and accessibility of Rugby on the Island by conducting training, fitness and nutrition programmes to aid both the male and female National Teams. By appealing for donations of unwanted rugby kits and training equipment from UK schools, clubs, universities and individuals, it allowed them to provide boots for St Lucia's impoverished eager young players, permitting them to deliver training sessions in some of the poorest areas of the island and resulting in the establishment of the first rugby youth tournament in St. Lucia. Not bad!   

Caribbean Coaching now works to develop rugby, netball, football and cricket in the Caribbean by taking over donated equipment and enthusiastic volunteers to pay to come and coach on placements at both at a National and grassroots level on a four and two week programme.    

Joe, who also therapeutically works for Kids Company to help abused and neglected children in the UK, ensures that you don't need to be formally qualified - just embody a raw passion for sport and a willingness to engage and desire to make a positive difference to join their program.  

Throughout their stay in St. Lucia, volunteers work on local projects focusing on social enhancement through sport, such as female empowerment and tackling other social issues such as HIV, drugs and abuse. Their projects offer people the chance to coach at a much higher level if they desire, to test and develop their coaching skills and abilities whilst creating a very impressive CV. The program also works closely with a St Lucian charity and helps them in other rewarding projects, such as working with children with learning difficulties and youth offenders. Come on....that's a pretty cool thing to have on your C.V or resume....

Watch Videos of the programs on their very own You Tube Channel Caribbean Coaching TV 

But of course its not all hard work and no play. Joe is adamant that the Caribbean is 'Paradise' and volunteers to the programme would not be denied the freedom to embark on the various excursions and cultural discoveries that await on the little island in the sun.

Joe was pleased to announce that Caribbean Coaching has also been shortlisted a number of times by the Shell Live Wire Grand Ideas Award and was awarded a £1,000 grant to assist the development of their programmes in the Caribbean.

So if you're interested in the temptation of 'Coaching in Paradise'?

Check out Caribbean Coaching's website for more information on how sports enthusiasts could get involved in this new emerging humanitarian enterprise.

Or you can follow Caribbean Coaching on Facebook or Twitter @CaribbeanCoach for regular updates

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