Trinidad and Tobago
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A bureau of standard for sports

Letters to the Editor
Newsday Lennox Francis -
Lennox Francis -


WE HAVE done it for trade and manufacturing and education and medicine. So, why can’t we do it for sport?

Preparing to fail was my advice to avoid a repeat of the result of Davis Cup 2022. “Who don't hear must feel.” Instead, we have descended to the cellar position while competing at home in 2023.

Minister of Sport, Sportt and Tennis TT, wake up.

After five decades and about 18 presidents the sport of tennis cannot seem to get it right yet. The facilities upgraded from the five glassy Eddie Taylor courts, to the six at Nelson Mandela Park, to the 12 at the National Racquet Centre seem to be running ahead of the organisers.

In the period stated I have never seen anyone from the TTOC, Sportt, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs or Tennis TT call to order a meeting/symposium or what have you and assisted in the drafting of a strategic plan to take sport from the grassroots level to world standard.

There are too many missteps and misfits in sport. In the words of Colin Murray in his newspaper column Game Time, “Sports in TT is going nowhere fast. Why?”

Administrators don’t seem to know that they don’t know.

The Minister of Sport is so busy handing out rewards for podium finishes that she is blind to where sports is ailing. A nursery for athletes has never been suggested, except when I challenged the former president of the TTOC "ten gold by 2024." No sport administrator dared enter that domain or even considered a four-year nursery cycle to groom athletes for our dwindling Olympic teams.

Sportt is struggling to put an organisation on the right footing to oversee sports.

The name change to Tennis TT did not change attitude and the organisation lacks the experience, the skill and the vision to propel tennis forward.

Most sports are speeding towards a precipice unaware there are alternative routes.

Tennis TT fits every aspect of my sports complaints. However, I feel compelled to offer suggestions to an open Sportt. If this organisation is to keep a finger on the pulse of all national governing bodies (NGBs), it must ask certain questions to ensure that informed decisions are made by them when contemplating asking for funding.

Presidents come and go, but there is no strategic plan. Athletes age out of the national programmes at 16 without seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and senior teams are retiring without successors. Red flags, people.

On the administration: All must have a five-year strategic plan and answer questions on the plan so that the sport and the public will know the intended destination and whether the map is being followed.

On the clubs: If given the right roles they can make immense contributions to the development of the sport. As a matter of fact this is the birthplace of most athletes.

On the athletes: These are the true beneficiaries of any sport. In addition to being attached to clubs they should have a compass, a syllabus of planned activities; direction; analysis of performance and measurement of progress towards their goals.

On the coaches: If the teacher is informed, trained and certified there is less trial and error getting to the destination. They have the tools to evaluate the performances and make appropriate adjustments.

On the parents: These are the first and sometimes the only sponsors. They must be informed of the coaching syllabus and be given the opportunity to evaluate if they are getting value for money. They have to be cherished as part of the athletic team.

On the sponsors: They have the macro lifelines for sports. Their contributions are almost never added to the sport budget to give the true picture of finances passing through the sport. Sometimes they suffer silently but persist to the end.

Using a timeline of five years, Sportt must have every NGB develop a business plan to be converted into a sports academy, the hub of champions in any sport.

The claim that the revenue from these new bodies must go to the Treasury because they are government-assisted is another lack of trust since the national sports assets are not even placed in their care.

Acts are intended for guidance, can be adjusted to accommodate new scenarios and should never be allowed to stifle sport initiatives.

The public is well aware that there are state-run companies and agencies that are five and ten years late in submitting financial statements. Why should sports suffer because of the lack of vigilance by government?

The formation of sports academies is for all sports as it represents a concentrated and result- oriented effort.

Other benefits include:

* Removing the biases of having to select athletes for national training.

* Reducing the dependence on state funds.

* Encouraging the NGBs to treat sport as a business.

* Eliminating the election of any Johnny-come-lately to the chairmanship of NGBs, especially without a five-year strategic plan and only waiting to dabble in funds.

* Making business management experience or qualification the entry level to chair a sport academy.

* Entrenching reporting and accountability instead of inefficient chairpersons preying on the forgetfulness of member clubs.

* Making the sport academy the national authority for that sport.

In time to come all “recreational clubs” should be converted into business units/wellness centres catering for all levels of effort to impact growing health problems.

Let’s take sport to the next level, keep up with the world and look after the welfare of our citizens.