WE are in a new normal, a circumstance that calls for a different kind of leadership and cooperation. While there has always been some indifference in our sports, this is not the time to continue along that path. What is needed now is leadership at every level, that could bring people together not only with a national plan, but a way to galvanise all of our people and inspire the best possible outcome.
With the suspension of sports in Guyana and globally since March of 2020, and now almost 10 months later, it is still unclear how we are going to recover and sustain sports in Guyana.
We have seen how major international sporting bodies and associations have been cooperating and innovating under these new restrictive conditions to restart their respective businesses, while meeting the needs of their communities.
Right here at home, we have seen cricket, cycling, athletics 10k, lawn tennis, bodybuilding, badminton, golf, and the K&S/GFF/MCYS football receiving approval from the Ministry of Health/COVID-19 task force, and from what has been reported in the press, they have all had successful events.
But what about the grassroots school and team sports that account for mass participation among our youth, across the regions of Guyana. The question regarding the safe and timely return of school and youth sports has to be addressed in a thoughtful, caring, and serious way.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put all of sports in a proverbial “straitjacket of the century,” giving us a new challenge to manoeuvre; and while we don’t know what will happen in the future, at the end of the day, we are all in the same boat where everyone is affected. So we can no longer play this game of looking out for our own or undermining the other or criticising or being more separate than we are; it is a good time for us to come together. It’s an opportunity for us to try to harness the best ideas and share resources so that all sports can benefit.
Here is where I believe coordinated, cohesive leadership could make the difference.
Ideally, the National Sports Commission could be leading this effort ,working as an intermediary facilitator between sports partners and the Ministry of Health/COVID-19 Task Force, and other national and regional stakeholders in providing guidance and support to aid in the safe and timely return of sports. This would allow for a more uniform, data-guided, and principle-based approach for sports to function safely during and post-COVID-19.
The last thing we need now is everyone looking out for themselves, too much is at stake.
Editor, we know that long before this pandemic, there were some major deficiencies and inequities in our sports governance; disparities between city sports and regional, male and female, youth and senior, mainstream and smaller disciplines, access to facilities, sponsorship, and media. The challenge now is much greater and further compounded by the social, mental, and economic effects of the last 10 months, and unless we can have a whole-of-sport cohesive approach to this new challenge, we will not be able to adequately address the real needs and recover as a fraternity.
In my humble view, the priority at this time should be trying to figure out how to give all sports, regardless of their status or connection, the opportunity and support they need to overcome this unprecedented challenge.
It’s going to take some creativity, which will be a challenge in scheming against this unpredictable pandemic.
But it is the right thing to do— even if it means for the year 2021, that the government has to play a greater role in subsidising sports across the board, in the long term, I believe this would be a good investment for the health and well-being of the grassroots.
We need leadership now more than ever!