Basseterre, St. Kitts – Medical doctor and sports commentator Dr. Patrick Martin has highlighted how sports can make a difference to St. Kitts and Nevis in many different areas as dozens of youth were presented with sports awards.

Speaking at the second annual National Sports Awards held at Government House last week, Martin made a contrast to the young people who were being awarded for their athletic excellence as opposed to the hundreds who met their demise and are interred at the nearby Springfield Cemetery.

“While waiting my turn, I was struck by a contrast,” he said. “Here in this place are young people being awarded for excellence; next door is another place where on too many occasions since 2001, burial rights have been chanted for young people.”

Martin hailed the sports department for putting on the event and stated that people being recognized is a basic human need. “It boosts self-confidence and self-esteem and optimism in the future,” he said. “A young person with such attributes is not likely to be attracted to the thug life.”

Speaking to the theme of the event ” Making a Difference through Sports,” Martin referenced the $70 million budgeted for national security and indicated that without other programs to occupy young people simultaneously would not make a difference

“To make a real difference in the direction of our country, sports must be on the front burner of public policy alongside optimal support for the arts, culture and youth groups,” he said.

He further noted that the point about sports has been endorsed by the United Nations: “In 2001, the UN inaugurated the Office of Sports for development and peace,” he said, quoting some findings from the UN as to the importance of sports: “’Sports has the unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire by its very nature. Sports is about participation and inclusion and citizenship. It stands for human values such as respect for the opponent, acceptance of binding rules, teamwork and fairness.’”

Martin added that since 2001, the formal advice to the government of St. Kitts and Nevis and all other governments was to invest in building a sports industry inclusive of all forms of physical activity, “such as swimming because physical activity is a building block of good physical and mental health,” he said, “because a sports industry is a feasible engine of economic progress and to advance societal peace.”

He added “ours is a small and open nation [and] we are extremely vulnerable to external conditions and influences. Our sustained development is under threat from climate[change,] among others, but the biggest threats to our health and development [are] the high levels of obesity-related noncommunicable diseases and violent crime.”

The medical doctor also highlighted the difference sports can make from a health standpoint: “Can sports make a difference?” he asked. “Today, 50 percent of children and teenagers in the federation have excess weight. Imagine the savings three to five years from now from a reduction in … obesity through robust promotion and organization of physical activity. Imagine the impact organized sports cam have in properly channelling the energies is seemingly hyperactive children toward good temptation.”

He then recommended a six-point plan be established and dubbed it “Making a Difference through Sports.”

“If the planning starts tomorrow, by the next budget session in December, there can be a vigorous government and civil society partnership to rapidly roll out a national sports policy and its implementing agency the National Sports Authority.” He noted that bigger countries of the world already use that formula of policy and authority.

“They use that formula to guide the investment of 1 percent of GDP in sports industry,” he said. “In the United States, [it’s] 3 percent of GDP. They are investing three times more than anyone else at sports.”

He then reference the importance the sport industry had had on the likes of Jamaica through Usain Bolt and the Bahamas through their hosting for the IAAF World relays since its inception.

“St. Kitts and Nevis must get firmly in the mix,” he said. “We have a track record of improving on what others started, looking at the CBI, for example. Let us at a minimum seek to brand St. Kitts and Nevis as first in class in franchise hosting – the St. Kitts and Nevis Patriots – event hosting, the CPL or as a winter training base.”

Martin, however, indicated that the money committed to sports in the federal budget is insufficient to making the desired difference. He proposed a six-point action plan as possible terms of engagement for a potential National Sport Authority:

  1. promotion of physical activity across all age groups
  2. the upkeep of sports and recreational facilities such as stadium parks, playing fields, beaches and trials for walking, jogging and cycling
  3. talent identification and nurturing using scientific and technical best practices
  4. defining of 1-3 year schedule of must-host and must-go-to events
  5. provisioning of representative teams with national uniforms
  6. fund raising

Martin also stated that other ways ought to be found to help keep the economy in good stead.

“Tourism is fickle, CBI is fragile,” he said. “We constantly have to find new and innovative ways to keep the economy afloat [and] a sports industry is a viable option.”

Jerellius Louis of Washington Archibald High School and Jahnaza Francis of Charles E. Mills Secondary School (CEMSS) were recognized as Sportsmen of the Year, while Trishanie Warner, also of CEMSS, as Sportswoman of the Year during the banquet.

Louis, a cricketer, has been selected to the West Indies U19 team in preparation for the next U19 World Cup, while Francis is the National Junior record holder in the 400m hurdles. Warner is also an outstanding track and field athlete.

Other winners of the night were the Dr. William Connor Primary School as School of the Year and its principal, Valencia Syder, as Most Supportive Principal. On the secondary level, the Charles E. Mills Secondary School was adjudged the High School of the Year in its respective category, while Principal Roger Woodley of Verchilds High School earned marks for being the Most Supportive Principal. Louis and Namibia Clavier, also of Washington Archibald High School, were awarded the top male and female athletes in the Academics Athletics category.