Soufriere Stadium is an excellent venue for cricket and football
Given the excellent year-round weather conditions an island like Saint Lucia lends itself well for a great variety of sports to be played at schools, at club and national levels and just for fun and fitness. As might be expected in a developing country where funding often is allocated in favor of infrastructure and more basic needs, sports that did not require elaborate venues and expense were the ones that have traditionally been the most popular, but others are gaining in participation and popularity.
In line with nearly all Caribbean nations, Saint Lucia’s two most popular sports are cricket and football (better known as soccer by our North American friends). Nearly every community has at least one ‘playing field’, as they are referred to here, which is often located at a school. Most are set up so both cricket and football can be played. But, of course, as is seen the world over, young children will adapt their games to play in a street, a small vacant lot or even on an expanse of beautiful beach. In Saint Lucia, flat open spaces are not easy to come by.
A casual survey of Saint Lucian locals would likely reveal cricket to be the island’s favorite sport, particularly from the spectator’s point of view be it with local matches or watching televised contests. The island has a world class venue, the Beausejour Cricket Ground, located in the north of the island not far from the Rodney Bay area; several 2007 Cricket World Cup matches were played there. League play and tournaments organized according to age groups are popular and very competitive island-wide and receive good interest from fans and media sports reporting.
Women’s cricket is popular in Saint Lucia as well, particularly at the national level as the country’s team has been very competitive regionally for the past few decades.
A drive anytime past any of the local playing fields might well result in seeing a friendly football match in action. Football is very popular with school age kids who only need a few friends and a ball to get a friendly game going. As with cricket, leagues and tournaments at the community club level are very popular and at times raucously competitive. Saint Lucia has an excellent venue for big matches in its National Stadium located near Vieux Fort.
In many Caribbean locales the game of netball has long been the most popular female sport. Netball is similar to basketball with some significant rule differences. Netball is played by girls in the local secondary schools and Saint Lucia has a national woman’s team that competes regionally. The game is played outdoors on special courts; all secondary schools have venues with more important games being played at a facility in Castries.
Basketball is a sport that has been growing in popularity in Saint Lucia due to the game’s regularity on television and to the fact that many of its stars are such well-known figures in modern youth culture. The game is played outdoors on island as each secondary school and many community centers have court facilities.
Track and field, or ‘athletics’ as it is referred to here and in most Commonwealth nations, is a popular activity in all levels of public schools in Saint Lucia. Make-shift tracks are lined around football fields for special sports days and competitions. Championship events are held at the National Stadium.
Some of the island’s high profile athletes are young men and women, who even with the minimum exposure they have received in local and regional athletic competitions, were able to gain athletic scholarships to universities in the United States and Canada where they developed into stand-out competitors.
The same is true for swimming as Saint Lucia has recently developed into a regional powerhouse in both boys and girls competitions. Largely responsible for this upsurge was the building of a private aquatic center in Rodney Bay as the owners worked very hard to make the pool and quality coaching available for training and competitions in an effort to develop the sport on island.
It should be noted that Saint Lucia has participated in the past several Summer Olympic Games with most team members competing in athletics or swimming.