The inaugural national secondary school games (NSSG) have begun. The parade through Honiara town reminds us of the youthful population we have, and the potential in each and every one of them.

More than 3,000 athletes from 39 schools across the country will be participating in the week-long tournament.

The NSSG covers a wide range of sports, from group to individual sports. The talent on showcase so far is impressive, and while a lot of these young athletes are new to competitive sports the potential is there.

“I only started table tennis two years ago, and this is my first time to compete in a proper tournament,” said Steven, a 16-year-old student from the Western Province.

“I took up taekwondo when I was in primary school, but this is the first national competition I will be participating in, I am abit nervous but I am ready,” a young Garvin said, prior to his first bout.

The NSSG is an opportunity for us to identify young talents, and bring out the best in them through proper coaching, mentoring and training facilities.

In other countries such youth level competition is the start of their national athlete identification cycle. Such competition offers a chance for young individuals to be identified and assisted to excel at the highest level in sport.

It is important for Solomon Islands to develop a systematic structure to identify gifted athletes and to promote their development in a certain sport. The Pacific Games 2023 is just around the corner, so building and maintaining such an event will help us in our preparations.

We must train our athletes years in advance by supporting their development, and keeping them interested in their sport of choice – such competitions is an important start and one that should be maintained and developed further.