So much of what Caribbean athletes aim to achieve, outside of personal glory, is an opportunity to be able to say 'my preparation and a lot of what I have achieved is through my work at home.'
The question is: How can the Caribbean sustain and improve its position in sport on the world scene in order to compete with its international opponents, most of whom have facilities and funding aimed at achieving excellence in performance?
What about a sport academy in the Caribbean? To have a sport academy programme set up for key sports within a regional sports partnership structure must be more than a thought at this point for the region. In an effort to build a super-power and to compete with the rest of the world, a timetable has to be set for putting the right structures in place. It may be a success story for the CSME.
There are structures for individual sport, such as cricket and track and field using what is called high-performance centres. Jamaica is home to a high- performance centre in track and field; plans are in place for a football academy, and there is a cricket academy, in Grenada. Barbados will be the first English-speaking Caribbean country to have a high-performance centre for volleyball.
The academy has to be properly outfitted with the right team of people and the latest in equipment and supplies in line with international demands and trends. "Love sport, live sport" is a motto of a sport academy in the United Kingdom.
The invitation to join says: "If you're aged 16-19, already talented in your sport and would like to pursue a career as a professional sportsperson, this is the opportunity you've been waiting for. You can take advantage of new state-of-the art facilities at our Academy for Sport at Gateshead International Stadium, part of a multi-million pound development."
While the focus initially would be to develop athletes, we also must develop personnel in the areas that are supportive of athletes, in the area of cricket groundsmen for example.
Too often, we focus on the outcome before we look at preparation. The court/field must be in proper order and the equipment and facilities have to be maintained. We must train people to undertake these responsibilities. Already we are training educators at the GC Foster College of Physical Education in Spanish Town, Jamaica.
The sport academy should provide community and educational sport facilities as well as a top-grade training environment for athletes and people with the interest. It will enhance the development of the region's talented sports people and provide an environment which will help to retain the region's best performers. The academy will also offer unique opportunities to young people. They will train alongside élite athletes, work with the community and perfect sporting skills while gaining academic and coaching qualifications, all in an environment which inspires a nation and a region to achieve great success.
The regions we compete with have all these facilities in place and we should not depend on talent to help us achieve success at the highest level. Jamaica as a leader in the region in most sectors can influence a decision to make this happen.
Sport, now more than ever, has become one of the fastest-growing industries, and to compete, we must have the necessary plans in place.