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.


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.