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Strategic utilisation of sporting facilities
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of sporting facilities through construction and upgrades—pavilions, the installation of floodlights, the provision of recreational items such as swings, slides etc and the creation of paved walking and jogging pathways.
Communities differ in leisure and sporting activities, therefore, creative approaches have to be employed to achieve the same common objectives across the country: greater utilisation of the facilities by larger numbers of people.
Lessons can be learnt from the approaches adopted in England and New Zealand where the emphasis has been placed on developing a strategic plan for the utilisation of sporting facilities.
The focus has been on competitive sport in schools; improving links between schools and community sports clubs; working with the sport’s governing bodies focusing on youth; investing in facilities and working with communities and the voluntary sector.
Firstly, there must be a strategic plan with an efficiently functioning management system. Such a system would include all the major stakeholders’ such as the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, SPORTT, THA, Education and Health Ministry’s; National Sporting Associations, UWI/UTT, the private sector and community representatives.
Secondly, it is important to listen to the voice of the people as it empowers them in decision making. Data must be collected and used for strategic planning and implementation. Failure to do so can result in the repeat of what took place during the NAR regime (1986-91) where basketball courts were laid in several communities that were used for everything else but basketball as the communities did not have an established basketball culture.
Thirdly, the data collected can be used for differentiating between new and existing users of sporting facilities based on age, gender, religion and other important socio-economic demographics. This will be critical toward developing new strategies to keep people actively involved.
Fourthly, baseline data must be established and monitored to measure various trends such as dropout rates. Furthermore, the data collected will help in assessing desired outcomes as well as determining the steps to be taken to improve all programmes.
The recently adopted Sports Policy 2017 offers a lot in theory in terms of what is expected in addressing the optimal utilisation of facilities as well as getting more people involved in sport and physical activity. However, it is only through robust data and the implementation of informed strategies can these objectives be properly assessed to determine whether or not they are meeting their desired outcomes.
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