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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It’s important to constantly be seeking different ways of doing things. The imperative to have a strategic focus on what the alternatives are and clarifying what the focus is, helps establish the strategy. One can learn a great deal by asking and answering the questions Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? The answers will usually foster overall insight that can inform the development of a strategy.

In the ongoing drive to seek a systematic approach to achieve and sustain high-performance sport, understanding the roots of high performance is more important than anything else. What constantly separates winners from losers is their approach to strategy. Strategy involves opportunity and risks.

Sport organisations all over the world are battling with their strategic agendas.  Sport leaders are wrestling with how to drive forward their respective organisations and overcome the organisational and environmental hurdles that block sustainable progress. There are operational risks, management risk, and sustainability risk. There are strategic contradictions and inconsistencies that require attention. Conventional wisdom acts as a hindrance and creates accepted boundaries.

Sport is no longer just sport. As long as we remain reluctant to accept the need for change we will continue to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Many decision makers have a vested interest in the status quo. Change must be introduced if sport is to move forward. Challenging the status quo is a critical success factor. Sport isn’t just the decision makers or leaders- it involves a genuine partnership from captain to cook.

Recently the idea of a structured elite athlete housing programme was articulated. There have been many questions and views about the need or not for such a programme. Outlined below is the basic proposition. A proposal has been submitted to the powers that be. At a minimum one can reasonably expect an acknowledgement and the opportunity to further discuss. Time will tell but in any event for better or for worse, nothing ventured nothing gained.

The purpose of the elite athlete housing assistance proposal is to advocate a policy that rewards Trinidad and Tobago’s National Athletes for their long and meritorious national duty and service at Olympics, Para-Olympics and World Level Championships (Continental & Regional). The idea of Housing Assistance for National athletes is based on the reality that athletes who dedicate years of their life to representing their country at Olympic and World level sport make tremendous sacrifices in respect of their careers, families, and income.

The athlete’s choice to dedicate themselves to National duty and service through sport ostensibly places athletes at a significant social and economic disadvantage.

Under the ten or more Olympic Gold medals by the year 2024 vision, Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund, the Olympic Committee (TTOC) proposes the implementation of an athlete Housing Assistance Programme which will facilitate expedited housing distribution to athletes. Athletes will be required to meet the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) mortgage criteria and will have to honour their mortgage obligations

Athletes who have served the country with distinction for five or more years it is proposed they receive consideration for expedited housing assistance. Some athletes struggle to adjust to real life when their sporting career ends. Athletes dedicate years of training and sacrifice to fulfill their Olympic dream and to stimulate pride amongst the citizenry of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T).

Providing housing assistance allows for a successful transition from elite and Olympic sport into the real world.  The programme will remove the burden of providing a home for their family and ensure a sense of security when their careers have ended.

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

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