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Laventille basketball team manager: Hoop of Life shows youth the positives
Having successfully gone through the first Hoop of Life Programme, the winning Laventille team feels the tournament should be kept on as a positive venture to assist in the development of young people. So says Russell Ray, manager of the Laventille basketball team which recently emerged winner of the $1 million first prize in the nationwide basketball tournament.
Although he has some negative comments on the venture, he is of the firm view that in the long term young people can achieve many positives under the scheme. He also wants to see more sporting disciplines added to the programme.
Q: Mr Ray (seated in the pavilion of the Laventille Basketball Court Thursday afternoon), you have been a community live wire, a real community leader almost all your adult life?
A: Yes. Mainly with young people. And you might ask me what my source of income was because you know community work is voluntary. Well, since they close down URP in this area in 1988, I have been unemployed since that time and my income—if you can call it that—(mirroring a courageous smile) was derived from “look a ten here, look a 20 or a five here.”
But I must be grateful to Republic Bank which has been assisting me financially after I was selected as president of the Laventille Basketball League for more than 15 years. Through them I earned a small income so I was able to keep my head above water.
How many children do you have?
One, 33 years old, and let met me tell you this, I have control over my biological urges (laughs aloud).
How did Laventille, and you in particular, come into contact with the Hoop of Life?
(One of the young men overhearing the interview shouted, “Tell Minister Warner we want we million dollars!”) I have been involved in basketball and its organising since 1975, and when this competition was announced we got very excited about it. It offered us an opportunity to display the sporting skills of our young people and to prove to the national community that we could provide a lot of fun and entertainment in this tournament.
We could also give an insight into the wide range of sporting skills of some of our young people, which we were happy to do. So when the project outlined its vision to us, we were very eager to be part of it. They called us and after outlining the programme to us, we were completely sold on the venture.
Now Mr Ray, your team has won $100,000. (One of the liming guys shouted, “Oh God, Mr Raphael, you want to take away a whole 900 grand from us?”) Laughs...
Sorry folks, I mean $1 million first prize. Now that is plenty money in any language, how is this to be divided among the team? The Hoop of Life management committee, before the tournament got under way, held meetings with teams and one of the things discussed was the financial aspect of the tournament, meaning cash prizes. Half of that money would go towards a community project to be decided upon in conjunction with the management of the Hoop of Life, players and staff members of the winning team.
Has this been worked out as yet?
What has happened in that respect is that we did not want to count the chickens before they were hatched, so we as a team decided to meet this (Thursday) afternoon where we will start the discussion right here (at the court) on this matter.
And the rest of the money?
The Hoop of Life has told us each member would be given an equal amount and this money will be delivered in tranches over a period of time in our bank account. Those who do not have an account, one will be opened for them.
Mr Ray, you are aware that the programme was dogged by politics during its infancy stages, did you experience any political interference during the actual running of the tournament?
Whenever it was necessary the co-operation was there—be it from the PP, the PNM, or whoever. But there was no political interference during or after the staging of the tournament. We experienced nothing of the sort.
Ok. Having gone through its first outing do you think any long term benefits can emerge out of this programme down the road, and on a scale of one to ten, how would you rate the success of the venture?
I would give them a six for being something that was held for the first time. The management did a very god job in the manner in which they went about conducting the affairs of the programme. went about conducting the affairs of the programme. But some of the teams in the early part of the programme experienced some challenges which stemmed from their lack of experience at this level, but gradually as the tournament progressed, efforts were made to improve their managing of the project.
They also spoke to players and managers in a very, very sensitive manner.
So why did you take a whole four points?
In the early stages of the tournament, a few occasions the schedules and fixtures for the games were slow in coming so that there wasn’t a proper schedule for the playing of games.
Mr Ray, one of the primary goals of the programme was to come to terms with the high crime rate among young people...
(A sharp interruption) I don’t like that word...crime. I don’t like us in Trinidad and Tobago mentioning crime and criminality.
Very often listening or reading it seems like when you mention these phrases we seem to be propagating and promoting the people who are engaged in these kind of anti-social behaviours. You somehow give them a boost when they read or hear of their wicked behaviour which does not help us in dealing with them in an effective manner.
What word will you use?
I would try to change the psyche of the people by not using that word, and this Hoop of Life could and would engender a different culture...at least the start of something new and positive.
Looking back at the just-concluded tournament, what kind of changes you would like to see in subsequent programmes? After all, Laventille has bragging rights now that you have emerged as the top dog in the inaugural phase of the competition.
We are speaking about basketball at the moment, but if by chance we include other major sports that are being played in this country...we need to increase the number of sporting disciplines which would of course increase audience participation.
What are some of the negative aspects of the programme as seen by your team?
(Thinking for almost 30 seconds) The venues need to be upgraded because on many occasions you had spectators standing to watch the game and that was because there wasn’t any proper seating accommodation. That would be a great incentive to get the people to come out and support their respective teams.
So that you need proper infrastructure to accommodate spectators. Our court here can hold any number of spectators but pity other venues which are very poor and in need of infrastructural upgrading. To be fair to the Hoop of Life management, I understand they did give some contracts to have facilities upgraded. But from what I saw and being a layman, the work was not properly done. They did not do their best.
Mr Ray, there has been the criticism from some questioning that after the games are played what would become of those young people?
Mr Raphael, there is a training component in the Hoop of Life where any player who wants to improve their working career can decide to undergo a period of study. There are opportunities in several trades. So the opportunities are there to be taken up. It is an all-round programme.
Is it your view Mr Ray, that if the Hoop of Life was non-existent more youths would have been involved in criminal activities?
I told you Mr Raphael, I do not like that term. Use a different word. But to answer your question, the communities needed something to galvanise them into seeing what positive things the future can hold for them and from that point of view it was an excellent programme to harness the sporting and other talent of the participants.
Finally Mr Ray, if you had your way, would you continue with this programme?
I would change a few things, adjust others, but definitely I would add to the number of sporting disciplines to the programme. But to keep it, yes I would, because I see this as one way of giving our young people a proper perspective on their lives and that in spite of what some might think there is a bright future for them if they would grasp at the opportunities available to them.
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