GEF Sports Program
Cuba is world renowned for many of their sports teams and athletes. Learn how Cubans train and play against Cuban competition. Sports include: baseball, basketball, soccer, and ruby to name a few. Almost all sports are included. We also combine the general culture of Cuba to give you a robust program as well as local excursions.
Sports In Cuba
Sports are a very important part of Cuban life. Baseball has long been regarded as part of the American dream or passion. That is also true in Cuba. Fidel Castro also is a big fan of baseball. Sports in general during the Cold War and probably up until the last few Olympics have been a Cuban priority to show off her athletes. Cuba excels in baseball, boxing, track and field and volleyball.
After the Revolution, Fidel Castro announced an end to professional sports leagues and planned to start national amateur leagues in its place. The National Institute of Sport, Physical Education, and Recreation (INDER) was created in 1961. This body governs all sport and recreation in Cuba. The INDER created many programs, including the National Institute for Sports Medicine, the National Coaches program, and the National Physical Education Institute. The INDER also created the Escuelas de Iniciacion Deportiva (EIDE) which is implemented in the primary and secondary education system to prepare the youth for sports achievement. There are 5 compulsory sports taught at all secondary schools: track and field, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, and volleyball. Many of the students who excel at a certain sport compete in the Cuban summer Olympics where EIDE scouts the talent and recruits them to a specialized school that caters to just their sport. All nationals have the right to participate in sport for the purposes of recreation, health or high ranked performance; and to education, health and employment. PE and sport are integrated and its delivery is closely articulated with health, education, community development, political and cultural approaches. Sport is a core subject on the school curriculum at all levels and is given equal weight with educational subjects.
Cuba’s national sport and passion is baseball. In the 1860s, baseball was introduced to Cuba by American sailors on trading vessels that ported in the country and by Cubans who studied in the U.S. and returned tools of the game, like bats and balls. Cubans quickly adopted the sport and leagues started all over the island. By 1869, after the first Cuban War of Independence against colonial Spanish rulers, the game was banned and Cubans were expected to dutifully embrace the Spanish pastime of bullfighting. These efforts to ban the sport quickly gave baseball a deeper significance to the Cuban people and the game itself became symbolic of freedom from their Spanish oppressors.
Today the regular season of baseball is played November- March and then the 28- game super series, from which the best players are selected to play for the National team. A Cuban athlete that makes it into a national team is expected to support the regime. They are considered workers and are paid a salary on par with other workers, although most national team members also receive perks like access to new cars. Many talented athletes turn their back on the island and go abroad for a chance to compete on a world stage. Many athletes are also not eager to leave despite the temptation of the riches in the U.S. Some choose to stay faithful to their country and to Fidel. Baseball is not only for the talented athletes on teams, you can also find children playing pickup games in open lots or fields all around Havana. Children play bare footed with sticks and balls made with tape the way we did in the 50s and 60s. No video games for these kids.
Cuba has also been a consistent contender for international boxing awards; 32 of Cuba’s 65 Olympic gold medals come from boxing. A reason for Cuba’s success in boxing may be the contributions of previous champions. Generally speaking, today’s Cuban champions are tomorrow’s trainers, able to pass on their years of experience to younger generations. In Cuba, boxing trainers are also required to have an academic degree that involves 7 years of schooling.