Golden era for sport at hand - Things that Matter column

The goal of achieving 10 or more Olympic Gold medals by the year 2024 created debate. There were those who felt, and probably still do, that its unrealistic.  They think that making the leap from two Olympic champions to 10 by 2024 is beyond real. Then there are those who understand that achieving that goal must first begin in the mind.

What comes next?  Having accepted mentally that achieving  10 golds is possible and is not out of reach, the next step is how are we  going to get those 10 or more gold medals. The  Olympic Committee has conducted a survey and a follow up is now due. The survey and other research based sources are aimed at providing important data and  analysis.

Budgets have to be done. Assessments,monitoring and evaluation. What are the targets and projections? These specific targets must be established within the context of a long term athlete development programme. Harnessing the abundant talent and potential can be done if there is a systematic approach. Winning medals are the end result of a systematic approach be it local or foreign.

When one considers the performances of T&T on the sporting stage in recent weeks. It’s about time that we put our collective energies to work. We can make a name a positive name for T&T on the global sport stage. I accept that based on all the economic experts T&T is facing a daunting economic future. The predictions are that who ever wins the upcoming national election must make some hard decisions.

That being so. There may well be the view that sport is surplus to requirements. It is hoped that this is not going to be the attitude towards sport. Give T&T sport a fighting chance. Double even triple the allocations to sport. But put in effective monitoring and evaluation systems.  Get the key stakeholders involved. Let them say what they want.

The funny thing is that even as this column is calling to triple the allocation, we are mindful that certain changes require an attitudinal and mindset change more than a monetary one. It can be done. Lets give it a really good go. With one year to go to Rio Olympics lets put  a huge effort behind a podium quest.

Lets aim to exceed the London 2012 medal count. Be not afraid of the challenge. Lets not be intimidated. Lets go for it. There is little margin for error with 365 days to go to Rio 2016. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate this country's Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games team, Soca Warriors and The Red Steel. They all lifted the spirits of a nation buffeted by an intolerable crime situation.

The joy that spreads through the nation because of the positive exploits on the field of sport is there for all to see. Time and time again sport has delivered. What more can sport do to prove its case? T&T,  the dawn of a new golden era for sport is at hand. Lets not blow it because of short sightedness.

Brian Lewis is the president of the T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee. 
Support #10Golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund make your donations to any branch of Scotiabank account number 171188.


Sport leaders face challenging times - Things That Matter column

The 21st century environment requires a nimbleness of thought and decision-making on a daily basis that is proving challenging for almost every sport leader. Having to focus daily on growing the sport you lead while working with key stakeholders from all over the globe, while at the same time addressing national needs, is at best interesting and at worst simply overwhelming.

In T&T, a huge challenge is to return sport participation to previous levels and then manage exponential growth strategically  in a sustainable way. Making choices that are best for the long term viability of sport becomes the strategic priority. Building the understanding and trust across the various stakeholders is also necessary.

Adding value to stakeholders, who are in essence clients, require balancing the increasing demands inherent in a member based non-profit organisation that also functions in a burgeoning commercial industry. Coming up with strategies for the direction of the NSO, specifically on the business development side is proving a significant step up for every single NSO.

Most sport leaders are facing the hard question: how to balance their love of sport with the business of sport while at the same time facing up to the realities of the political side of sport. There need to be some hard choices made; the resistance to change is powerful and influential. Moving local sport forward is a journey. And like every journey it starts with a single step with obstacles to overcome along the way.

Where is T&T on that journey from developing a strategy to making important decisions and delivering on objectives what is our guide? How do we position sport in T&T for accelerated growth? How do we position T&T as an emerging force in global sport? How can we integrate the diverse objectives and agendas to develop a united strategy?

I remain convinced that T&T provides the near perfect stage to develop and sustain a powerful presence in the theatre that is global sport. T&T is alive with potential. Sport talent and potential is in our DNA. What will it take for policy makers and manifesto drafters in the political realm to wake up to the untapped value of sport?

Modern sport is a diverse business. Setting goals, single minded focus on success, being a team player are all leadership skills that are developed from playing sport. NSOs are responsible for governing their sport, following rules and regulations as established by their international federations and at the same time providing member organisations with increasingly demanding service expectations, often in the face of tremendous financial difficulties.

The person ultimately responsible for the strategic direction and implementation for the NSO, for understanding its strengths and weaknesses, is its president. The president must be able to demonstrate the full range of modern leadership skills commonly found in successful corporate and commercial enterprises.

The ability to serve, inspire, motivate, empower, guide and attract the best people. The NSOs brand, image, reputation and commercial value can either be enhanced or diminished by the leader. However, notwithstanding all that has been said previously, the most important people in any sport organisation are the athletes not the sport leaders.

Next week we will take a look at the national sport policy which should be the document that provides the guide and systemic framework for all local sport stakeholders including the Ministry of Sport and Sport Company T&T. Brian Lewis is the president of the T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee.

•Support #10Golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund. Make your donation at any branch of Scotiabank TTOC Account #171188. Share the Olympic Dream.


NLCB, TTOC a golden sporting mix - Things that Matter column

The National Lotteries Control  Board  (NLCB) has formalised its partnership with the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee  (TTOC ). The historic agreement resulted in the creation by the NLCB of a new instant money (Scratch ) game called Going For Gold that will carry the #10golds24 logo. The projected contribution is $200,000 with potential to generate one million dollars or more  per annum.

The upper end is an ambitious target that will require the Going for Gold game to be extremely popular and well supported by the public. It’s a start compared to what is received from national lottery funding  in other countries. Aside from the cash injection into the Ten or more Olympic Gold medals by the year 2024 Athlete Welfare and Preparation fund, there are a number of other athlete focused elements such as internship, ongoing training etc.

But the real win for the TTOC and NLCB is the creation of a new paradigm in respect of thinking outside the box. The willingness to come up with new answers to old questions is a credit to the decision makers at NLCB. Senior executives at NLCB were focused on creative solutions so as to support the TTOC to meet challenges and optimise opportunties.

How can we get sport in T&T to flourish? One of the key priorities is to take the guess work out of how sport is funded. What are our most important financial goals? Is our financial resources the determining factor in how we are able to plan and acheive set targets? There are pros and cons to everything.

Some of our athletes are extremely motivated to work hard to acheive their Olympic dreams and goals. Their motivation is evident. NLCB is a wonderful example of a corporate/state entity committed to finding a way to help and support the Olympic Dream. Our athletes are dedicated. They  have national pride and are fiercely competitive. To build a successful career in elite sport requires those three attributes among others in abundance.

Our athletes  matter. They have an unbridled excitement and enthusiasm and determination to give their all for their country. They have stories that everyone should hear. Since 1997, when national lottery funding was introduced to directly help British Olympic and Paralympic sport, Team GB has become one of the leading Olympic nations in the world.

Their legendary Olympic great Sir Chris Hoy has said without dedicated national lottery funding he would not have achieved his Olympic dreams. The British approach to national lottery funding for Olympic sport is now being adopted by a number of other countries.

So while the NLCB Going for Gold Instant Money Game rolled out to the public on Monday is new, it is not unprecedented around the world. It is a first and historic step to advance the discussion for T&T to follow the British approach to national lottery funding for Olympic sport. UK national lottery funding is supporting the stories of courage and resilience of British athletes who aspire to win Olympic medals and become Olympic Champions.

I believe a similar, dedicated and specific national lottery funding approach that is transparent and accountable will have a huge and transformative impact on Olympic sport here. To acheive the target of ten or more Olympic gold medals, the first challenge is for the NLCB and TTOC to ensure that the Going for Gold Instant Money Game is a success.

Brian Lewis is the President of the T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee. Support #10 Golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund make your donations to any branch of Scotiabank account number 171188.


Sport not a bully pulpit - Things That Matter column

The dictionary defines excellence as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. The International Olympic Committee promotes respect, friendship and excellence as core values of the Olympic Movement. Propagating these values is the responsibility of the Olympic movement led by the respective National Olympic Committees.

It’s a difficult role and responsibility given the ever changing landscape that is contemporary society. Pierre Coubertin- founder of the modern Olympic movement articulated the following:
• Joy of effort in sport and physical activity;
• Fair play;
• Respect for others
• Pursuit of excellence;
• Balance between body, will and mind.

However for the majority of people including many National Olympic Committees it is an Olympic medal preferably gold that defines excellence. What exactly is the pursuit of excellence? For some excellence is not just about winning. Sport inspires people in all walks of life to strive for excellence. There are no shortcuts to excellence.

Supporting the elite aspirations of those who aspire to win medals is a topic that causes significant discussions. Not everyone is of the view that elite level athletes should be supported. It may rankle some especially those of us who see the power of sport making a difference on a daily basis. But it is important to listen to the argument made by those who don’t support sport.

It’s a complicated issue that is shaped by individual experience, upbringing and perceptions. That sport is given special consideration is a source of resentment in some circles. Those of us who argue vehemently and passionately that the development of physical skills and positive motivation that comes from success in team and individual competition inspire the desire to pursue excellence must accept that not everyone buys the party line.

Sport at its best can help young people develop positive mental, social and psychological skills. But it has to be acknowledged that when sport is used for negative reasons it paints an ugly picture. It is in this respect that national sport organisations must be very conscious of the need to maintain the positive image and attributes of sport.

In embracing the duality of our human experience we find the ability to reach deep within ourselves and produce what we choose to define as excellence. In helping young athletes to pursue excellence we emphasize hope. Encourage positivity, set expectations and demand accountability. If we are to inspire champions it can’t be at the expense of the totality of human experience.

Excellence in many ways defines the experience of sport and the Olympic Movement. Aspiring for excellence in all that you do on and off the field is a worthy endeavour. Let’s continue to strive for excellence in life through sport. But let’s also embrace the challenge that sport isn’t a cure all and that making the argument for sport requires giving careful thought and consideration to different views.

Sport ought not to be used as a bully pulpit.

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


Fix your house or all fall down for sport - Things that Matter column

Today the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) joins the rest of the global Olympic Movement in celebrating Olympic day. The occasion will be marked by a number of activities at Olympic House, 121 Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain. Various schools will be hosted at Olympic House. Members of the public are invited to visit and join in the celebrations. Olympic day in T&T comes against the backdrop of troubling times for local sport.

Sport is at a critical juncture and transition, decisions can either harm or help the sustainable development of sport here. Decisions that impact directly on the national sport organisations and their capacity to develop and run their sport require transparent two way discussions. Any perception of a lack of transparent discussions in and of itself damage claims of a commitment to good governance.

In some quarters, the argument is still potent that both the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company has not done enough to calm fears and allay concerns in respect of good governance. Post Life Sport, the local sport community remains troubled. International bodies are intolerant of government interference.

As the focus was put on a few individuals who may well have had less to do with the entire Life Sport debacle than the public has been led to believe. For certain individuals it’s business as usual and it serves a purpose to perpetually sing the song that national sport organisations don’t know what they are doing. Hence the refrain that Ministry of Sport and Sport Company is the solution.

Take away the fear of a loss of funding or access to funding there is need for broad discussions in respect of the sport system. Somethings aren’t as above board as some purport. Why is the Sport Commission and the establishment of the Commission on the back burner? What are the policy perspectives and imperatives informing the sidelining of the sport Commission? Who decided and why?

Has there been open and transparent consultation in respect of the way forward? What is the vision and strategic imperatives driving decision making? As the Ministry of Sport and Sport Company hold the microscope on national organisations and the Olympic Committee, there is a saying fix your own house first.

There are a number of extremely capable and honest individuals who make a hugely positive difference inside the Ministry of Sport and Sport Company. They have a clear sense of what needs to be done and why respecting the national sport organisations is a critical success factor. They know the hidden truth and need to be given a fair hearing. Ministers of Sport, generally, aren’t the intractable problem. Short term thinking overides the policy  cycle.

In countries perceived as best practice, the public sector functions  effectively and efficiently  on the basis of policy and a policy cycle. What the sport community wants to understand from the political parties contesting the upcoming general elections is a loud and clear perspective on how will sport be integrated as a key pillar  in their respective economic and national vision and development plans.

Resource allocation of$57 million dollars to national sport organisations is not adequate and reflective of a sustainable  approach to sport development.

Brian Lewis is the president of the T&TOlympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee. Support #10 Golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund make your donations to any branch of Scotiabank account number #171188. Share and support the Olympic Dream.


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.