SPORTS and CULTURE are congruent with development Part III
In part three, the final article of this series, I come back full circle to the custodians of sports and music in the country, the players and performers. We tend to, quite frankly, find ways to say times are different but I counter this by saying values should remain.
Hence, while one may complain about the lack of facilities or say that lip service is being given to music and sports by people in authority, we, as practitioners, have not taken our art with any level of seriousness. I mentioned in Part II of this series that Kavem Hodge is the only selected Windward Island player, but it is not by accident or merely that they have a bone to pick with Dominicans, as some would like us to believe.
I have noticed the gentleman's work ethics in the Botanic Gardens, Lindo Park and elsewhere and it makes sense. Now, can we say we see a similar level of dedication and commitment from our other sporting or cultural personalities? Fred Nicholas our most senior bassist on island told me that in his formative years he spent over 10 hours daily on his craft; Sty LaRocque, our foremost drummer and Dada Lawrence, our most renowned producer, will confess that the better part of their day is spent on their craft.
The same footballers and cricketers mentioned in Part I would hardly be seen without a ball in hands or on feet and those who were unemployed occupied mornings, mid-days and late afternoons playing football. Today, the sun is always too hot and so sportsmen, employed or unemployed, find their way to the practice venue when the sun has set, still find time to engage in old talk, smoke a joint, put on their boots and then take a small goal sweat where expletives are exchanged: "pass de f…ing ball" or "your moder p….".
No hard grueling work of running up Thirty Five Steps or across the Palm Groove River before the ball is touched and so by the first quarter the team is burnt out even under lights. No more playing in the rain. Footballers today run to the safety of shelter when it rains whereas decades ago it was the best time to play and slide in the muddy waters in an environment where no one could or did tire. Consequently, they lack the strength of a Herminus Emmanuel or the endurance of a Lenny Andre, in the midfield.
Today scholarships are awarded to even the most mediocre of players; almost anyone with an average of 40 for a couple seasons can walk onto the West Indies side. Compare these times when you averaged 80 and 90 in league cricket and still could not make the national cricket team. Ask Irvine Shillingford about his struggles to make the West Indies team although he is still the best Windward Islands batsman ever.
See how easy it is for our bands, musicians and calypsonians travel to the various islands with assistance from the diaspora before the advent of Nature Island and Mark Off local recording studios. Today, Dominica has over 15 recording facilities, three of acceptable marketing quality, and generally the standard of arrangement, vocals and instrumentalist leaves a lot to be desired.
Decades ago, there was only Windsor Park, Technical Wing, Newtown and Potterville savannahs, hardly any reasonable playgrounds outside of Portsmouth and Londonderry, but now almost every constituency and or village has some sort of playing facility or court and yet the results are not forthcoming. Our best cricketers, I am reminded, came from the west coast communities of Dublanc, Colihaut, and St. Joseph where the Marshall's, Shillingford's, Sebastian's were nurtured and yet we fail to replicate their talent despite modern facilities, better grounds and greater scope.
Sports and music are now careers; long ago it was just a pastime but you would swear it was the reverse today. No more can we subscribe to the blame game to one thing or one individual. Haitian national Danelson Mahautiere after just a few years in Dominica is showing how one can excel in sport with dedication and perseverance in spite of limited facilities. African runners, who never owned a pair of track shoes far less a track suit, have made it to the top in the Olympics.
The above just validates the points made throughout the series: there needs to be a serious consultation on the demise of sports and culture in Dominica. The need is urgent. Policy makers, sports groups and organizations, private sector institutions and sportsmen and sports-women must set up a national policy which will drive new enthusiasm and help propel our nation to the heights it once held in the region. We need a change of attitude in our youth which ultimately will result in a change in the success of our nation.