The Buck Stops with NSOs - Things that Matter column

It’s not who wins or loses an election but how those in power govern. National Sport Organisations (NSOs) are responsible for the governance, development, administration of their sport and all else that goes with those mandates. This includes advocating for sport as a key pillar for the economic and social development of T&T.

Politicians and decision makers seem conflicted about giving sport a seat at the table. I believe that the public supports the idea of a key role for sport in the national, economic and social development of T&T. Economic factors underpin the problems facing sport, however, it is important to change the conversation in T&T about sport and move away from the superficial attitude and approach.

The Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company, guided by Government’s policy on sport will facilitate and provide tax payer’s funds subject to the availability of funds from Ministry of Finance. NSOs that allow their autonomy and authority for their sport to be compromised on the basis that they get Ministry of Sport or the Sport Company funding as a convenient excuse must not be allowed to get away with this deception.

The buck stops with the NSOs, not the Ministry of Sport or the Sport Company. The ongoing reality of elite level athletes both individual and team sports having to participate in international competition and Olympic Qualifiers woefully underprepared and under resourced is manifestly unfair on our individual athletes and national teams.

It is the standard to roll out aggregate financial figures to justify that financial support has been given. But that is just half the story. The grassroot reality of sport for those who have no political or other agenda is that sport in T&T has always been a battle; and don’t imagine the struggle will ever get any easier.

Unless political parties are prepared to commit from a policy perspective to make sport a key pillar in their forward vision for the country, the sustainable development of sport and aspirations to achieve ten or more gold medals by the year 2024 will continue to be a struggle.

International headlines for the wrong reasons and the negative impact on the country’s image. Problems and trouble never go away by denial. The uncomfortable truth is a stark fact of life. It takes real courage to search for the truth and to face the consequences.

We continue to send our national athletes and national teams to important international and Continental events including Olympic qualifiers, underprepared. Those who hide behind their desks, papers and pens and ineffective and shortsighted policies and processes, can continue to do so but it’s the athletes and national teams that face the embarrassment and humiliation.

Appreciate and understand the damage to brand T&T and the importance of protecting our country’s brand. We can’t let others with vested interest define our brand. We have to define it ourselves. Sport helps T&T market itself internationally. Transformation of the sport system is a strategic priority. Sport leaders are elected by sport stakeholders. The ultimate responsibility for their sport is the mandate of the NSOs.

NSOs including the T&T Olympic Committee must do what they were elected to do, which is lead not hide behind the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company.

Support #10 Golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund. Make your donations to any branch of Scotiabank account number 171188. Share the Olympic Dream.

Brian Lewis is the president of the T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee.


Working together necessary for success - Things that Matter column

It takes mental strength and a winner's mindset to be the best in the world. If we want to be the best, we have to be willing to do whatever it takes effectively and ethically. Stuart Lancaster, national rugby head coach, has vowed that his squad will be fitter and leaner than ever for the Rugby World Cup in September, warning his players that they face a “grim” time during their training camp at altitude in Denver, Colorado, in July.

“In order to win the World Cup, you have to be the fittest team,” said Lancaster. “And the type of game we want to play, it is probably the most important thing that we need to get right. It is going to be pretty grim for the players in Denver. It is tough there. We are then going to Vail, which is even higher.”

Shad Forsythe, a new fitness coach at Arsenal—headhunted to invigorate their training regime—was one of four specialists who worked with Germany’s FIFA World Cup winning coach Joachim Low’s every session of the way at the World Cup. Arsène Wenger identified the need for improvement in the club’s training regimes and went about solving the problem by recruiting a man who has been working at the vanguard of elite performance.

The two cases above are highlighted in an effort to emphasise how important a proper fitness regime is to the creation of a high performance culture. The mantra is a simple one: if you want to be at your absolute best you have to prepare to be the best. In the absence of specific and detailed proper preparation, all else is wishful thinking.

Creating a high performance culture begins with having the mind-set and mental strength. Without the mind-set and mental strength one would hardly be able to attain the best performance that is required to achieve success at the highest level of world sport. Some have asked why is it so difficult to move the T&T sport environment and system to a high performance one.

That there are a cadre of individuals who understand and have the training needed to help build the high performance culture there can be no doubt. But the question is why is it –at least in the minds of the athletes- so hard to get the environment right? We can set all the loft goals and objectives we want. Unless we adopt a high performance mind-set and develop the requisite mental strength to insist that it is in place- the chances of reaching set goals will be difficult.

It makes little sense being defensive or living in denial.   It is important that all who have an interest in seeing T&T adopt a high performance culture make the conscious decision to put aside perceived differences and integrate the available resources. It can be frustrating and at times easy to simply stay in our individual silos.

But we are too small a nation to be so inclined.  Working together for the common good is a necessary priority. There is too much potential and talent residing in T&T to allow differences to divide and disperse the development of a high performance culture. I saw this list on the website. It makes for interesting reading and is worthy of consideration.

The 18 things mentally tough people do:
1. They move on
2. They keep control
3. They embrace change
4. They stay happy
5. They are kind
6. They are willing to take calculated risks
7. They invest their energy in the present
8. They accept full responsibility for their past behaviour
9. They celebrate other people’s success
10. They are willing to fail
11. They enjoy their time alone
12. They are prepared to work and succeed on their own merits
13. They have staying power
14. They evaluate their core beliefs
15. They expend their energy wisely
16. They think productively
17. They tolerate discomfort
18. They reflect on their progress


Pressure part of leadership - Things that Matter column

Ten or more Olympic gold medals by the year 2024. Establishing T&T as a sport tourism haven. How do we achieve those two objectives for T&T sport? Ask. How to get what you want: Ask. It doesn’t mean whine or beg or complain or plead or grovel. It doesn’t mean expecting a handout or a free lunch or charity. It doesn’t mean avoiding responsibility or doing the hard work.

Don’t just ask and expect someone to give you something. It’s about creating value—value isn’t always tangible. But tangible or intangible it’s about creating value. If you aren’t convinced about what you are asking for, how can anyone else be? Ask with absolute conviction. Be able to show that you are sure of what you want, you are sure you will succeed.

And you are sure you will create value. You have to keep asking. Keep trying and keep changing. What would happen if we ask effectively? We will achieve our objectives. Sport in T&T, no matter all the perceived negativity, continues to deliver at various levels. In the Caribbean, T&T has claimed titles in various sports.

While the argument is that all the success is happening in spite of rather than because of the sport system, those who know the truth will argue that to state that it’s happening in spite of, is a lazy over simplification. The questions continue to come fast and furious. How can we move local sport to the higher level? What specifically do we mean when we say we want to take sport to the higher level?

Is it more gold medals? Is it growth in participation? Is it an increase in the number of women and girls participating in sport? What do we mean? To arrive at answers what we need to do is ask. It may seem obvious but it’s not. Most of the conversations taking place are driven by assumptions.  There is a lot of talking at sport taking place and not much listening.

As simple as it may seem we need more asking to take place. One of the dangers we all face is that we become so engrossed in what’s happening that we run the risk of missing subtle changes that are occurring daily. Effective leaders make it a habit to look at their businesses or organisations with a clean sheet of paper-seeking advice and other perspectives from people who are less emotionally invested in their business or organisation.

Pressure is part of leadership. Change creates urgent situations and problems. Most things seem to happen at an inopportune time. We all make mistakes. Leaders are watched closely. Every move. Every word. Every action by a leader is under the microscope. When the pressure is on, the microscope is intensified.

People learn more about their leaders when the pressure is on. When the pressure is on, the question is do you stand up for what you believe? Pressure reveals the true mettle of a leader. Asking questions and seeking answers will provide leaders with the opportunity to anticipate the issues and problems.

No matter what the objective may be—increasing revenue, athlete and coach development, fundraising, problem solving, planning. Whatever it is, asking questions is a fool proof strategy. Sport organisations need its leaders to ask questions and to be unafraid of the answers no matter how unflattering those answers may be.

Transformation is the objective. We must all work and collaborate to drive the transformation of local sport. Transformation and innovation.


Preparing the modern sports administrator - Things that Matter column

The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) focus on capacity support for member national sport organisations (NSOs) is bearing fruit and the turning point is underway. Those who believe that sport administration is facing serious problems need not be alarmed. Based on the participants signing up for the TTOC sport administration courses there is  significant interest in learning about what it takes to be a forward thinking modern sport administrator.

The participants attending the course are determined to make a positive difference as they share experiences and discussions about the betterment of sport. No matter the problems they have an enthusiasm and passion that augurs well for the future. This is not to say that frustration may not set in. But there is a positivity and willingness to confront the issues and wrestle with the solutions that is admirable. They are fearless, inspired and motivated.

The intention of the TTOC in hosting annually a number of courses and workshops is a singular one—to help build capacity, knowledge and skill. Enhancing the ability of those who have a keen interest in sport administration is an important priority. Encouraging participants to take the initiative. To unlock their sport leadership potential so as to transform T&T sport is well worth the effort.

Recent participants include a number of past and current national level athletes who have signed up for the courses and workshops and have stuck it out to the end. Unearthing a new breed of sport administrators who are imaginative and bright these disruptors aren’t contented to complain and do nothing. They are willing to get up and get, hardworking, committed and willing.

They are honest in facing up to the major issues facing T&T sport—the economy and other matters of public concern. That there are structural and systemic social and economic problems facing sport isn’t overwhelming and intimidating the new breed of course participants. They are prepared to challenge the status quo and those who are ineffective in representing the position of sport and the athletes.

The modernisation of T&T sport is an ongoing process. It is important that the TTOC through Olympic Solidarity programmes and funding continue to strengthen national sport organisations management and governance structures. Through the tools provided by Olympic Solidarity the TTOC has been able to continue to develop sport administration training courses.

Moving past the sport administrators’ course is the advanced sports management course which is based on student participation, practical implementation of the material studied through case studies, sharing of experiences and the development of a learning community. The aim of the advanced course is to give a new perspective on sports organisations.

The case study approach is aimed at placing the participants in reality based situations while thinking about future solutions. The sports administrators course provides basic training over a short period. The advanced sports management course is comprised of several modules and an emphasis on acquisition of the skills necessary for sports management.

Sport in T&T will repeat the benefit. The real challenge is for the older heads and thought leaders to not feel threatened by the new ideas and fresh thinking. The TTOC courses and workshops are an incubator of creativity and innovation. The dawn of a new era of T&T sport managers and administrators is here and not a moment too soon. Let’s do it. Embrace and empower change.


Rugby sends powerful message despite struggles - Things That Matter column

For many of the athletes on national teams not considered major sports the struggle is real. That is not to say that those in major sports don’t struggle or face at times seemingly insurmountable odds.

On Saturday at the St Mary’s College Grounds the T&T national senior men’s 15 a side rugby team defeated Mexico to lift the North America and Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) 2015 rugby championship. Previous winners in 2001 and 2008, the Calypso Warriors T&T rugby team has broken into the top 50 ranking in world rugby as a result of their recent exploits.

Rugby is considered a minor sport here in T&T. It’s not a status that should alarm anyone as it reflects the reality of rugby’s participation level as compared to football, cricket and track and field to name a few. Among the few hundred supporters — a decent crowd by local rugby standards — was present to see T&T Captain Adam Frederick lift the NACRA Championship  trophy was His Excellency Anthony Aquinas  Carmona, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

The T&T team dedicated their win to former national rugby player Jason Clark who suffered a significant spinal cord injury a few years ago. Clark still remains a well-loved member of the T&T rugby fraternity and no doubt his comrades still consider him very much a part of the T&T team set up. Cleopatra Borel and Shanntol Ince were also present in a show of patriotism and support for their fellow national colleagues.

As pointed out earlier, the support of His Excellency, Cleopatra and Shanntol would have sent a powerful message of comradeship. At times our athletes struggle to comprehend the “whys” and “wherefores” of the challenges and struggles they face. For our athletes they find it hard to accept that the pride they share in wearing the red, white and black at times is not noticed or considered.

In trying to solve some of the momentous problems facing this small society of 1.3 million people the at times enormity of the problems can seem a mountain too high. But yet in the face of so many talented sons and daughters of the soil.  The inspiration to soldier on can be found.

That’s why supporting our national athletes and teams are always an important exercise in patriotism and nation building. Every day those involved in sport strive to make this country a better place using the values of sport. While the support can’t always be financial the mere fact of wearing red and showing up gives our athletes uplift.


Time to stop playing with sport | Things That Matter column

One of the positives of the Olympic Committee’s (TTOC) education and affiliate member capacity building strategy is the increasing awareness within the local movement that much more can be done in respect of improving the management, governance and administration of sport. Within recent years the demand to attend the sport administration courses has increased exponentially.

Last year, the TTOC held its first advance sport management course. This year the course has been oversubscribed. The TTOC also offers mediation and arbitration support if and when requested. A consequence of the increased demand for the TTOC courses is growing requests for the TTOC to conduct sport specific sport management, governance and advisory services.

The TTOC over the years has always been seen as a major stakeholder in the local sport system. It is therefore not farfetched for the TTOC to be seen as an invaluable resource that can be called on to address problems and issues. Given its access to both local and foreign expertise in a number of functional areas it may very well be time for the TTOC to prioritise the use of its global network to support the increased demands for TTOC assistance.

The need for information, insight and analysis for the local sport sector is an urgent priority. The real world isn’t waiting. Change is occurring daily. For national sport organisations and governing bodies to keep up, a quantum leap forward is required—not forward into the future—but forward into today’s world.

We have an absolutely wonderful story to tell the world through sport. But because so many of us are being held back by outdated methods and thinking the true reality of the enormous potential and opportunities can’t be realised. It’s not and never was a guessing game. In the past we may have been able to get away but now given the ready access to information its hard if not near impossible to fool some of the people some of the time far less all the people all of the time.

There are significant opportunities waiting to be explored. This is not the time for hesitancy. We have to go for it. We have to seek out the information, knowledge and the intelligence, make informed choices, ask the right questions and create the right answers. It’s in this context that the TTOC must leverage its access to international resources and institutions to bring a positive contribution to the management, marketing and governance in T&T.

The issues and topics that are high on the global sports agenda must be addressed not after the fact but in advance. We shouldn’t wait until situations become far advanced to address them. In setting new standards we must champion and be in the vanguard of change. The goal should be to transform local sport through innovation and excellence in every area, be it sports marketing, digital media, brand development, event management and sponsorship.

It’s high time we stop playing at sport and get serious about the opportunities within sport. Implementing strategic shifts will require identifying those who will lose the most from the strategic shift as those individuals or groupings will make every effort to derail openly or silently any effort at making a strategic shift and progress.

It is never easy to execute a strategic shift, and doing it with limited resources is even more difficult. A critical strategic success factor is addressing the obstacles and hurdles.