The newly appointed president of the T&T Table Tennis Association (TTTTA), Merle Baggoo has pledged to restore the trust in the association.
In a historically held virtual election which was held on Sunday last during the TTTTA’s annual general meeting, Baggoo was elected as the first-ever women’s president of the association unopposed after her rival for the position, another woman, 12-time national women’s singles champion, Aleena Edwards withdrew from contesting the position at the 11th hour.
Baggoo now takes over the position left vacant by David Joseph, who opted not to contest for re-election earlier this month ahead of their annual general meeting.
Just last month (March 23), the under-fire Joseph and his executive was the subject of a strongly worded letter and a petition signed by several clubs requesting their removal.
The petition was sent to Shamfa Cudjoe, Minister of Sport and Community Development, Gabre McTair, Director of Physical Education and Sport Division in the Ministry of Sport and Community Development, Brian Lewis, President of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC).
Joseph was elected as the new president of TTTTA in February 2019, unopposed to replace outgoing president Ian Joseph (no relation).
Other members of his executive included Leon Elliot (First Vice President), Winston Greene (Second Vice President), Jelani Bramble (Third Vice President), Leah Fraser (General Secretary) resigned as was replaced by Edwin Caines, Arvind Teemul (Treasurer), Nicole Lee (Assistant Secretary), Davone Joseph (Assistant Secretary) and Debbie Mc-Ewin-John (Public Relations Officer).
The other members who were elected unopposed at yesterday's annual general meeting were Kevin Lewis (First Vice-President), Richard Copeland (Second Vice-President) Vasdev Bob Roopnarine (General Secretary), Leah Fraser (Assistant Secretary), Dave Ramoutar (Public Relations Officer), and Kenneth Parmanand as the Treasurer after Baggoo declined to contest the position following her appointment as president.
Baggoo, who represented T&T in Table Tennis (1960 to 1964) at Caribbean Championships and won the national women's singles and mixed doubles title in 1963, told Guardian Media Sports following her election victory, referred us to her manifesto when we reached out to her for an interview. The document pointed to building back the trust between the executive and its members because the relationship between the executive and fraternity is vital to the success of the sport.
"The first women's football referee in T&T and the English-speaking Caribbean in 1963 as well, Baggo said there is also need to regain the high standards of governance, accountability and transparency with the integrity of our association by adopting an open-door policy," stated Baggoo.
The newly elected TTTTA boss who migrated to won several titles while living in Canada during the late 1960s and 1994, when she claimed the title at the Edmonton Alberta Corporate Championship said she also believes the association needs to be procedure and policy-driven and as President, she and her executive will transform the modus operandi of the TTTTA to standardise the decision-making process.”
A three-time Queen's Park Table Tennis champion (2014-2017)
"To achieve this we need to implement controls and compliances for decision-making processes, and review all current procedures and policies as well as become more inclusive as I think everybody should have an opportunity to contribute to any discourse our sport may have”
This will include emphasising equitable distribution of positions to all zones, while actively involving the zones and clubs in managing projects and adopt a more democratic approach to decision making.
Baggoo also has plans for expanding the sport across the country and explained, "Table Tennis is the second most popular sport in the world and it’s enjoyed by many different demographics and there is a lot of room for expansion in T&T”.
So for us to be successful in doing that there is a need for us to revitalize inactive zones, empower and advise existing zones and reintroduce the secondary and primary school leagues as our major goals.
"There is also the need for us to create a network among the clubs to direct interested players to a club in their area, get our website up and working and increase opportunities for coaching and umpiring certification.
With so many sports competing for mainstream coverage and coverage, Baggoo said there was a need to rebrand table tennis locally.
She recalled, “I remember back in the day you could have seen a table tennis board under every house. Table tennis was big then and it could be big now”.
So we need to embark on a rebranding drive to open more marketing possibilities, foster better relations with media and sponsors, explore the idea of introducing a rating system to facilitate international players, introduce more divisions in tournaments, review and enhance prize structures, introduce a women’s league and most importantly have a dialogue with the Ministry of Education and regional universities to offer scholarship opportunities
"There is also a greater need for us to start marketing the hobby tennis players as I think you don’t have to play tournaments to enjoy table tennis”.
Some of the areas we can target are the marketing of table tennis’ fitness and health benefits, growing participation among differently-abled citizens and increasing participation among an older demographic.
At a national level, Baggoo said the TTTTA has fallen behind because every serious country has training year-round, and we need to follow suit”.
"We have to introduce developmental training to cadet level players and have year-round training for the senior and junior teams, as well as formulate a plan to have a home for table tennis shortly."