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Social, sporting lines must not be blurred

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Things that Matter
Sports Minister Anil Roberts, second from left, and former National Security Minister Jack Warner, second from right, stand in front of the banner announcing the Hoop of Life Programme during a news conference at the launch of the programme. With them, at right, is Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal and former Minister in the Ministry of National Security Collin Partap.

Trinidad and Tobago desires sporting success as much as it wants a crime free society. There are some people who see the choice as one or the other but not both. However, for the majority of citizens -medals, Olympic and World titles matter. They are important to T&T. Sporting success lifts the spirits of the country and removes, even if temporarily, the doom and gloom.


There is a crystal clear demarcation line between what is a pure sport programme and a social programme that seeks to use sport and the values of sport to make a positive difference in the lives of at risk children, youth and young people.


To use the two interchangeably is to do sport a disservice.


It is essential that this distinction be made. It is not simply a matter of euphemism, semantics or public relation spin.


Using sport and the values of sport as a tool to teach life skills should be encouraged and supported.


However it must be understood and acknowledged that there is a fundamental difference. 


As examples, LifeSport and Hoop for Life are social interventions using sport and the values of sport. They aren’t pure sport programmes that build sport capacity, infrastructure, pathways and systems.


According to media reports, the LifeSport programme is structured to address specific life skill needs among at risk communities. Each of the 33 areas of the programme has an estimated 60 participants.


LifeSport seeks to teach life skills to at-risk youth between the ages of 16 and 26 living in communities facing crime and gang related challenges. Each programme seeks to engage at least 60 participants, who receive a $1,500 monthly stipend for their successful participation. Since its inception the project has received approximately $150 million in government funding.


Some years ago this column expressed support for the Tarouba concept on the basis of what was intended. That things have not gone the way it was originally intended validated the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


Tarouba on the surface appeared to be sport centred. Yet things still went awry.


It should be of concern to everyone involved in sport in T&T that sport tends to be painted in a negative light and those who are convenient friends of sport take great glee in showing up sport as deficient and even undeserving of serious consideration and support.


This is unfortunate and deeply troubling as the truth of the matter is that social intervention programmes have very little or nothing to do with national sport organisations and their registered clubs, members and athletes.


It is a grave injustice to sport stakeholders when the distinction is blurred.


Social intervention programmes are relevant and legitimate and the new normal in many parts of the world. It speaks to the power of sport as a social tool. But let it not be said that social intervention programmes are an investment in sport and the sport systems or infrastructure.


That there are obvious synergies and opportunities for integration can’t be denied. However, the integrity of sport and sport values can’t be compromised.


The distinction must be made and acknowledged.


The sustainable development of organised sport as acknowledged by membership in international sport federations and international governing bodies can only legitimately be done through national sport organisations and national governing bodies recognised and in membership of their respective International Federations.


Sport is sport. Blurring the lines is a disservice to sport. Sport requires investment as do social intervention programmes.


Make the distinction and acknowledge the difference.

Brian Lewis is the President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the TTOC. 


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