I attended the Toyota championship division rugby match between Harvard Club and Royalians, at the Queen’s Park Savannah, on Saturday. Rain earlier in the day made the Savannah water soaked and muddy. It meant wet feet and sneakers, plus a handful of supporters, but little else. If sport at the grassroots level depended and relied on promises and expectations, the brutal reality is that sport in T&T will come to a halt. The Toyota rugby championship is only one example. It’s the same story in every sport in T&T. The air is rare at the Olympic level. An Olympic medal is the pinnacle achievement: Once an Olympian always an Olympian. But the truth of the matter is that sport is only a blink here in T&T and Olympic success distorts attention from the day to day truth. There are countries around the world—Qatar and Singapore come readily to mind—where sport is front, back and centre of their national vision and master plan 2030. Here in T&T vision “anything” is a political curse word—the consequences of using no sane person wants to bear, especially in a land where talking is more cherished than doing.
That T&T is in need of an integrated sport ecosystem, world class systems, and facilities should not be a point up for debate. But the big ticket items aren’t the solution. Our sportsmen and women and national teams need the basic foundation that will provide them with the tools to perform at the highest level. They need individuals and organisations dedicated to helping them maximise their potential.
In the absence of well-structured sport and community clubs and integrated long term athlete development pathway how can we possibly talent identify, develop and prepare world class sportsmen and women? Are we building the capacity of our local coaches? Are we providing our coaches with world class training opportunities to improve their knowledge and expertise? Are we building the capacity of our sport administrators, managers and national sport organisations and governing bodies? Local coaches and administrators are expected to stay abreast of the latest coaching and sport administration and management principles. Coaches have to stay up to date with the latest technical methods of their sport, as well as introduce within the training of local sportsmen and women, the use of physiology, nutrition, psychology and video technology.
Forget the pappyshow, the extent of the work that is required can be observed at the grassroots level. In the absence of genuine ethical partnership between the local sport stakeholders, decision makers and thought leaders, we are “spinning top in mud.” It bears repeating again and again and again. There is an urgent need for an integrated and practical programme aimed at developing proficiency in the areas of sport sciences, talent identification, athlete development, coaching, grass roots sport development and ethical aspects of coaching and sport management. In the absence of a solid foundation, all we are doing is building a house on shifting sand.
T&T came away with a record medal haul at the London 2012 Olympic Games—success that hopefully provides a narrative that will inspire a new generation of young Trinbagonians to become active through sport.
The TTOC’s commitment to the Olympic Games, the Olympic movement and empowering youth through sports is unshakeable. The history of the Olympic Games and Olympism suggest that the Olympic Games and the Olympic movement will outlive those of us currently involved. Why waste the moment or opportunity and focus on the wrong priorities or questions? On Sunday members of the Defence Force rugby team were involved in a vehicular accident in Tobago. Best wishes to all the injured players for a full recovery. Everyday we are reminded how fragile life is. For those of you who are interested, the TTOC sport administration courses resume in mid September.
Call 625 1285 for registration information.
Brian Lewis is the Honorary Secretary General of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee http// www.ttoc.org. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the TTOC.