BY MICCA VANVIELD
Sports are just as popular in the Caribbean as they are in the rest of the world. With all the excitement in the city and all the hard work that has been put into making sure that the Pan Am and Parapan Am games are a success, Toronto will really be in for a treat.
Growing up in the Caribbean was a lot of fun, especially when it came to sports. You were either glued to the TV for soccer games or cricket matches and as a youngster you would then try to emulate the stars. I remember growing up and gathering around the TV with my family to watch soccer (football as we call it in the Caribbean). One of my biggest heroes in the sport was Pelle from Brazil. Watching replays of his famous “Bicycle Kick” and comparing the new generation of soccer stars to Pelle was definitely a great highlight of my sporting life in the Caribbean. Now we all know that sports in the Caribbean are definitely a great pastime and that’s with both being an athlete as well as a spectator. This reading will definitely highlight a few of the popular sports in the Caribbean that you may have the opportunity to enjoy over the next month of celebrating the games in Toronto.
Who would have thought that Baseball played such a prominent role in Caribbean history? Not only has the Caribbean produced superstar players but there currently a number of private leagues including teams from Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico (even though they are a part of the US). Take Dominican Republic for example, baseball has been a prominent sport for over 100 years. The first baseball teams in DR were formed in 1800’s. If baseball is your thing, be sure to do a baseball tour while you are in the Dominican Republic. You will get the opportunity to broaden your horizons and may even be able to play with the pros.
Beach volleyball is definitely a fantastic past time when visiting family in the Caribbean or staying at an All Inclusive. While staying at a resort, you will generally see that there is an activities menu. This will always include some sort of scheduled beach volleyball. North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation (NORCECA) is responsible for all volleyball activities that take place in the Americas and Caribbean. So if you’ve realized you’re skilled at beach volleyball contact NORCECA. You may find yourself playing in the Olympic and World Championship.
I would have to say that this is one the sports that shaped the lives and futures of a lot of athletes in the Caribbean. Every young child I knew especially boys were involved in playing the sport. Whether you enjoyed the game or not, sometimes you were limited by technology and you would have to be engaged (when the whole island is doing it, you kind of have no choice). Be sure to experience a cricket tour the next time you are visiting the Caribbean.
With the lingering popularity of soccer throughout the world, there is no doubt that soccer is one of the favourites throughout the Caribbean. Visitors to the Caribbean can now enjoy the game (whether as a spectator or as a player). During the World Cup there was a lot of preparation made to make sure that the countries/islands would not miss the games. Different countries installed large screen TVs and opened up stadiums to watch the games. Visitors to the Caribbean can now embark on tours that include a soccer exchange program, where they can travel to different areas of the world and work one on one with children in low socioeconomic communities. Before the tours, Youth Leaders are required to fundraise in order provide help for the community they are visiting.
TRACK AND FIELD
Last but of course not least, track and field. I must say that this is my favourite sport that has impacted the Caribbean. Having been an active athlete throughout my childhood, I still remember the cheers from my peers, the fields we would race in and the uniforms we used to wear. Now track and field has been made into an international sport by many athletes, but mostly by the famous Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. The next time you are visiting the Caribbean, visit a local school, or better yet, if you are in Jamaica take a tour of Usain’s primary school, to really get a feel of the track that helped to pave the great Usain.
Do enjoy all that Pan Am and Parapan Am has brought to the city. If you cannot go to the Caribbean for the fun and games well let the fun and games come to you.