FEW WOULD disagree with the need for parents to spend more time with their children.
“Don’t be too busy,” Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told parents on Sunday at the launch of the Laventille Community Swimming Pool at Sogren Trace, Laventille. The Prime Minister urged attendees to take the plunge and embrace opportunities presented to them; to venture into uncharted territory; to swim good.
“Do not, for one minute, believe this pool does not open doors that were closed to you,” he said.
But when it comes to changing the mindsets that have kept marginalised communities back, the matter is not just one involving the communities in question. It’s a national matter involving a wide range of stakeholders, including the State.
TT has produced its share of world-class swimmers such as George Bovell, Dylan Carter and Sharntelle McLean. Yet, though we are an island surrounded by water, swimming as a sport has not attracted the type of interest that one would expect. The sport is either not taken seriously enough or perceived as exclusive. What accounts for communities not embracing swimming as a sport?
In the first place, it is the lack of infrastructure. Swimming pools are relatively expensive. They are not normally features of the average household. Community pools are necessary to give the kind of disciplined exposure required to foster involvement in the sport. It’s important for the State to construct and maintain pools across the country and to ensure they are maintained and manned by lifeguards and experts capable of nurturing talent.
Historically, our people have had an antagonistic, including sabotage, relationship with water. Mention of the Middle Passage (the crossing from Africa to the Americas) and the East Indian concept of the Kala Pani (the phrase translates into Black Water) are enough to suggest why this is so. Still, lack of access to quality infrastructure is a more immediate cause of attitudes in which communities do not think of swimming as a viable or accessible sport.
The new pool in Laventille joins recently-built facilities such as the National Aquatic Centre in Couva. These facilities are intended by the State to encourage total participation in sport through the development of modern, well-equipped facilities.
It is a pity that in this day and age the Defence Force has had to be brought in to run the new pool, reflecting the fraught perceptions and assumptions surrounding crime and criminality, including sabotage, as well as the reality of danger and risk all over the country.
Spending more time with children is a good idea. But a corollary to this must be a nationwide cultural change that sees people using these facilities in a manner that allows them to become champions not only in the water but in all aspects of the discipline that the swimming pool is intended for.