Minister of Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, poses with the Barbados Junior Squash team.????

There is a possibility that more school-aged children in Barbados could soon be playing squash.

Minister of Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, said Government was willing to support the Barbados Squash Rackets Association’s "desire" to extend that sport to school-aged children.

She made the comments yesterday, at the opening of the 27th Junior Caribbean Area Squash Association’s (CASA) Championship, at the Barbados Squash Club, Marine Gardens, Christ Church.

Dr. Byer Suckoo stated: "We recognise the need to provide individuals with opportunities to engage in sport, and especially in a sport like squash, whose participation has traditionally been linked to certain demographics. So such an effort is timely."

She told the gathering that it was only through early exposure that countries could increase the likelihood of developing world-class athletes, while adding that it was also necessary to provide the requisite world-class instruction for coaches.

The Sports Minister urged representatives of the nine associations at the meet to deepen their working relationships, and to build on each other’s strengths, while learning from their mistakes. "There are certain elements that are common to any successful plan and in an area where resources are scarce, it would be irresponsible of us not to collaborate in our developmental efforts, especially so, given the obvious talent exhibited by so many of our juniors over the years and during this Championship," she suggested.

The Minister added that sport was one avenue that had the proven capacity to play a leading role in the Caribbean’s integration efforts. "We can identify with the West Indies cricket team as an international signifier of our regional identity, and while the way forward for the regional sport sector is not clear cut, our existing resources and experiences are sources of optimism," she observed.

Dr. Byer Suckoo said the Caribbean had not been able to establish its sports sector in a manner consistent with the quantity and quality of athletes the region had produced. However, despite the challenges which would be faced in this regard, she noted that there were important steps that could be taken.

"The first step that we must take as a nation, as a regional body, is to understand and seek to optimise our existing resources. Here in Barbados, we are trying to have all our sporting organisations realistically identify what their resources are … and look to manage their resources better. We think that is an important step to developing the sport," she pointed out.

The Minister commended the Barbados Squash Rackets Association on the establishment of its Hall of Fame and said she looked forward to the day when the average 11 year-old squash enthusiast could aspire to follow the path of his or her favourite squash player, whose contribution to the regional game had been recognised by an induction into CASA’s Hall of Fame.

A total of 110 players from nine countries, including Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados are competing in the championship, which was first played in St. Vincent in 1981. It is held annually, and this is the fourth time that Barbados has hosted the event.

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