George Comissiong stepped into the acting position as head of the National Association of Athletics Administrations of T&T (NAAATT) late last year following the resignation of then-president Ephraim Serrette.
Comissiong, at the time, held the post of first vice president and with the remaining executive shouldered the responsibility of leading the body, some seven months ahead of the virus-delayed Olympic Game in Tokyo, Japan, which for the first time since the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, the national track and field team went medal-less.
Though a disappointing run at the Games, Comissiong, who has served in the manager's role for several national teams, has re-committed himself to the sport, and on November 27 at the annual general meeting (AGM) and election of officers, he hopes his team will be chosen by the membership to lead the association.
The AGM will be conducted in a Hybrid at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva from 2 pm for fully vaccinated and virtually for unvaccinated.
Comissiong intends to run a clean campaign against an opposing slate headed by Dr Ian Hypolite and believes he has the right team to fill the 11 positions available which include six on the executive and five directors.
He told Guardian Media Sports: "We believe that come November 28, whoever is in office will face several challenges and among them should not be a divided fraternity with members carrying wounds from a bitter campaign. Our focus is not on mudslinging; rather, we shall be concentrating on our planning and efforts towards the advancement of athletics."
His team comprises four persons from the existing Board to ensure that there is both institutional memory and the necessary measure of continuity, two persons who would have had some prior experience on what was previously called the executive, with expertise and proven skills that would provide useful support; and five persons with no prior experience on the Executive, but who are intelligent, highly qualified, enthusiastic and prepared to serve.
The incumbents are Comissiong (president), Dexter Voisin (general secretary) and Durly Lucas (member) who is challenging the second vice-president post. The rest of Comissiong’s slate includes Paul Voisin (first vice-president), Michelle Stoute (assistant general secretary) and Marlene Roopchansingh Williams (treasurer) and for directors posts, current second vice-president Allan Baboolal, a member of the NAAATT for the past 35 years, Jehue Gordon, the 2013 Men’s 400 metres hurdles World champion, Zwede Hewitt, the 2010 men’s 400m national champion and Jamaal James, a multiple men’s 800m national champion and Cuquie Melville are challenging.
His plan, which is geared towards preparing the leadership of the NAAATT for the future, as his campaign, is themed "Youth Meets Experience - Passing The Baton" is broken down into five "Strategic Pillars". They cover, focusing on overall athlete development, enhancing support systems, building on past successes, taking athletics back to the community, and creating new products and opportunities.
Comissiong said these pillars are also the yardstick against which they wish to be assessed at the end of their term
On why they did not pursue those strategies before?
"The current Board did pursue some of them and would have achieved some measure of success. However, they were not necessarily the key focus of this Board," said Comissiong, who believes his team can achieve them now.
"We have put together a team of candidates that is well balanced in several respects e.g. in age and experience, with a proven track record and youthful exuberance, persons with complementary and supplementary skills to provide balance in deliberations and decision making, with the capacity to ensure that decisions taken can be effected."
Comissiong has served 23 years in the administration of the sport and has a long list of managing teams at all levels regionally and internationally. This year's Olympic assignment was his fourth, having served as Team Manager for Athens 2004 (Greece), Beijing 2008 (China) and Rio 2016 (Brazil).
He has also taken teams from the annual Carifta Games up to World Athletics (formerly IAAF) World Championships.
Team Comissiong's Strategic Pillars
Focusing on Overall Athlete Development
• Building closer collaboration between the athletes and administrators
• Facilitating athlete involvement in decision making
• Energising the operations of the Athletes’ Sub-Committee
• Providing wider exposure for athletes
• Addressing the special needs of females
• Establishing an Advisory Bureau for Athletes
Guidance for athletes on key issues including - Scholarship opportunities local and abroad; Visa and consular matters; Current and potential job opportunities; Developing “personal business plans” consideration by corporate entities; Money management; Life after athletics.
• Establishing an Athletes’Welfare Fund - Financial and material support for deserving athletes
Enhancing Support Systems
• Capacity building and institutional strengthening - administrators, coaches, technical officials - to meet current and future needs
• Provision of an annual grant to support club operations
• Provision of training equipment and materials
• Provision of support for club events
• Encouraging the development of fan groups locally and abroad
• Creating a symbiotic relationship between schools and clubs
• Developing a seamless pathway – primary school, secondary school, clubs, national competition and international competition
Building on Past Successes
• Continuous Improvement of existing processes and activities, identification and rectification of deficiencies
• Enhancing communication flows
• Improving stakeholder understanding
• Increasing use of social media to build support for the organisation, its clubs, athletes and teams
• Production of content to promote education and interest in activities
• Increased digitisation of sport e.g. registration of athletes, entries for events etc.
• Enhancing capacity to record, analyse and manipulate relevant data
Taking Athletics back to the Community
• Decentralisation of activities away from the stadia
• Encouraging participation by schools in programmes and events
• Partnering with member clubs, community groups and other stakeholders for novel programmes, events and meets in different formats
• Creating a more diverse membership
• Building bonds between athletes communities
• Highlighting and promoting local talent
• Improving talent identification
• Facilitating recruitment from a wider talent pool
Creating New Products and Opportunities
• Creating a pathway to profitability
• Diversifying and expanding revenue base
• Reducing dependence on Government
• Increasing NAAATT’s attractiveness through improved investor returns
• Creating new partnership opportunities/attracting additional sponsors
• Partnering with member clubs, community groups and other stakeholders for novel events
• Enhancing customer experience at NAAATT hosted events
• Developing Strategic Partnerships
• Affiliates - TTOC, Coaches Association, Technical Officials Association, Masters Association
• Local universities, schools, and institutions
• Business Chambers
• Others – TTDF, Physio Association of T&T, Fan Groups