If you look in the thesaurus for the word sport, you will find words such as pastime, entertainment, amusement and diversion.

There are many dedicated people putting in a lot of time and energy to deliver the benefits that can come through sport. But they are becoming disheartened. Their enthusiasm is waning in the face of many problems, fraudulent statements, lies, speculation and things going wrong. Negative attacks take on a life of their own and live on.

Love and passion provide the impetus for not giving up, but at some point the reality that love and passion aren’t hard currency that can buy groceries or pay the bills hits home. Then the question as to why am I doing this? How do those who have to deal with the demoralising frustrations keep some semblance of sanity, faith and trust?

Sport is embraced by almost everyone, including politicians and business leaders. The adulation when our elite level athletes and national teams do well can be described as awesome.

Dr Roy Mc Cree in a paper entitled The Exclusion of Sport from Caribbean Economic Development, made the point that historically sport has been excluded from official and dominant notions of economic development in the Caribbean and that the factors for that exclusion represent the colonial derived, received or orthodox view of sport.

If you said sport in T&T is facing an uncertain future you would not be taken seriously. However, it is a reality that sport is struggling. For the majority of sport organisations and governing bodies the last year has been the most difficult period financially for quite a while and it’s not going to get better.

National sport organisations and governing bodies must plan for all outcomes including the best case scenario and the worst case. What’s even more important is being able to make rational and objective decisions that are in the best interest of sport.

When sport is running on financial fumes it tends to bring out the worse in everyone. As national sport organisations and national governing bodies’ battle on a daily basis to sustainably develop sport, they have to keep looking in the mirror before looking out of the window.

Significant achievements have never been obtained by taking small risks on unimportant issues.

National sport organisations and national governing bodies, including the TTOC, can no longer avoid championing and advocating for sport from a capital accumulation and economic development perspective.

We spend too much time, effort and attention on stuff that isn’t beneficial or sustainable.  It’s time to shift the focus from solving problems to recognising opportunities.

From a strategic and policy perspective it’s about being proactive, staying abreast of what’s happening and using the opportunity to shape and create a sustainable future for sport.

It’s not just spin.

Many sport stakeholders are pulling their punches or hesitating to express their views. They have become tentative and overly focused on being politically correct- avoiding confronting sensitive issues or making waves.

We have to stop tiptoeing around significant issues.

How do we grow exponential the economic footprint of sport?

Who is willing to bet on sport as an economic game changer? How do we rectify the valid concerns and obviate the failure to embrace the economic development and transformation of sport in T&T.

Why are we missing the boat or is there something more sinister at play?

It’s time to tear down the wall of opposition and resistance to the economic development and transformation of sport in T&T.

The path to sustainable sport success, growth and development starts with a critical look in the mirror.

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

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Recently I read an article about the reasons why the New Zealand 7s rugby team was so successful under Gordon Tietjens. Tietjens coached the New Zealand team for 20 years. His success is legendary. He expects his players to make extreme sacrifices. He revealed that the players have to undergo tests for strength, repeated speed and Beep/YoYo testing.

Tietjens stated that players have to comply with conditioners’ standards.” If they don’t, I don’t pick them”. He expects his players to look after their nutrition, fitness levels and to manage their lifestyles.

Success is mandatory and selection is ruthless. He told the reporter that success in sport, just as in business, depends on culture.

His approach and ethos is mirrored in almost every high performance sport programme across the developed world.

Here in T&T, some people label our sportsmen and women pampered and mentally soft. This is an unfair and judgmental statement meant to cover over the deficiencies of sport leaders, decision makers and the sport system.

There are two sides to every story. What are our athletes saying?

Individual and national team sport athletes determined to maintain their focus and attention on becoming a Continental, Olympic or World champion feel they are being impeded in their efforts by a dysfunctional, bureaucratic, inefficient, ineffective and unsympathetic sport system.

That there are gaps along the pathway from junior to development level and the system is failing those who have the talent and potential to be successful elite level sportsmen and sportswomen.

To achieve excellence they need excellent coaches, excellent training programmes, access to facilities and financial support.

They perceive there is a lack of financial support, lack of coaching expertise and support, lack of training/competition opportunities.

Sportsmen and women perceive the sport system here as an obstacle rather than a success factor.

It makes little sense hiding the extent of the problem.

Lack of support is an obstacle that can negatively impact performance excellence.

In the modern world of elite sport, an amateur athlete or national team is required to train full time to the detriment of other areas of their lives.

Our sportsmen and women need help now, not tomorrow. We have to stop putting the bandwagon before the horse.

Several conclusions can be drawn from the responses of our athletes and national teams.

We are selling our sportsmen and women and national teams short. Our sport system is too far behind.

There is a growing gulf between our sportsmen and women, elite level athletes and national teams and national sport organisations, national governing bodies, Ministry of Sport and the TTOC. The problem needs to be addressed now not later. The landscape is evolving rapidly.

We are fast becoming a relic of a bygone age.

The deficiency has been collective. Elite and Olympic level sport isn’t nebulous. It is performance driven.

Successful athletes and national teams inspire a generation of young people.

We need successful athletes and national teams. Sport provides almost immediate feedback of what you have achieved or not achieved.

People generally have passionate views for a reason. We have to create the sport environment that will inspire our athletes and national teams to strive, achieve and maintain excellence.

Our athletes feel that those in power sit in their ivory tower and remain detached from the feelings and concerns of sportsmen and women. This is not only frustrating but should be of concern to those entrusted with the power and authority to make a positive difference.

The time to start is now.

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

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We must plan long term if we are serious about making a mark in world sport.

The consistent success that Trinidad and Tobago so dearly crave and desire will not happen because we wish it. Not only must there be a long term plan but with it we must have discipline and patience.

To be the greatest of all time, to be an Olympic champion is an undistilled passion for thousands of sportsmen and women around the world. Here in T&T, we do have sportsmen and women who carry dreams of greatness in their hearts.

Even as I made the announcement 16 months ago that our Olympic target is 10 or more gold medals by 2024, there were no illusions that such a declaration would meet with unanimous acceptance. There would be varying responses. Positive, negative, scornful or dismissive. It didn't really matter. Nothing can be achieved unless it is first spoken.

Striving for excellence is a core Olympic value.

An Olympic gold medal has far deeper significance than just the trappings and financial rewards and the adulation.

Winning an Olympic gold medal and becoming a champion is a process, attitude and mindset.

Luck? Destiny? Purpose?

There are many opinions based on individual perspectives and experiences.

Love it, hate it, embrace it or resent it.

Being an Olympic champion has been a cherished achievement for over 2000 years.

Myth, truth, legend or mere tall tales—the pursuit of Olympic glory and victory has always gone hand in hand with producing decent honourable men and women who are deeply and unwavering patriotic.

The quest and enduring romanticism of an Olympic gold medal has surged deep within the human psyche a stirring for Olympic gold, it is the ultimate achievement for many sportsmen and women. The dream and vision of standing on the top of the Olympic podium with the gold medal around your neck and hearing your country's national anthem play and watching the national flag raising is something that words cannot describe. Not even money can adequately replicate or represent the emotions of such an experience. Priceless and invaluable memories.

Last week I attended along with other presidents from various Caribbean national Olympic committees a Rio 2016 preparation forum hosted by Carlos Nuzman, president of the Brazil Olympic Committee.

Brazil shared their vision for Rio 2016 and beyond. Their aspiration and intention is to finish in the top 10 of the Rio 2016 medal count.

Their strategic map and vision has been many years in the making. No matter the stumbles or failures, the Brazil Olympic Committee is focused on achieving their target.

At this particular point in time, they have around 700 athletes in their Rio 2016 programme. Their expectation is that just around 400 will be selected for Rio 2016.

There will always be arguments surrounding the social issues in Brazil. But it is undeniable that sport plays a significant role.

Olympic gold medals don’t guarantee social justice or a more equitable distribution of national wealth.

But as many athletes in Brazil set sight and focus on Rio 2016. The Olympic Games is a symbol of their country’s effort to achieve its full potential.

Here, our present and future Olympians are just as determined and focused on achieving their best in Rio 2016 and beyond.

We may not have the resources of a Brazil but I have no doubt that we can match any country in respect of determination and will power.

Rio 2016 is very much in focus and on the radar.

Last week’s visit to Rio as a guest of both the Brazil Olympic Committee and the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee was a timely reminder that the margin for error is razor thin.

Rio is in a race against time but they aren’t alone. Many other countries will themselves be leaving no stone unturned in the push for Olympic glory.

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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Sport is motivational, inspirational, aspirational and a positive catalyst for healthy lifestyles and attitudes.

It facilitates social cohesion, equity, social justice and fair play.

Many have the naïve impression that all sport leaders understand and live the positive ideals and purpose of sport.

Many believe, somewhat naively, that all sport leaders put the best interest of sport ahead of their self-interest.

Many believe that all sport leaders exceed and deliver on the promises made.

Sport is omnipresence.

Successful leaders love change, whereas the unsuccessful do everything they can to keep things from changing.

Successful leaders look at how the world around them is changing and focus and embrace ways to improve what they are doing. Change is not something to resist.

The willingness to accept change is a great quality of successful leaders.

The most successful go beyond mere change and challenge traditional thinking. They challenge traditional thinking and traditions and create new ways of doing things. They disrupt that which is already working in order to get to a better place. Indeed they don’t allow traditional thinking to hold them back.

Grant Cardone put it best when he said successful leaders were called thought leaders who design the future with forward thinking.

It’s not change for change sake but it’s the willingness to challenge tradition and find new and better ways to accomplish goals and objectives.

If sport is to reach goals previously thought impossible and correctly set goals and guarantee their achievement and create unprecedented levels of success, the leadership deficit must be addressed. Success is overcoming a challenge. Sport, like life, can be quite brutal.

Great leaders anticipate and solve problems, they make situations better not worse.

Why is there a leadership deficit? The reasons are many and include; living in the past and doing everything possible to keep things from changing.

Sport leaders need to accept responsibility for the problems, mistakes and missteps and take immediate actions to address the leadership deficit.

Stop being apathetic. The barrage of controversies and bacchanal will continue once sport leaders keep making excuses for their shortcomings and mistakes and refuse to accept responsibility for what happens on their watch.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said the respect of partners was indispensable for the autonomy of sport.

“We earn this respect through responsibility and reliability, by using our autonomy responsibly and acting reliably.

“Sport is completely dependent on its credibility, ie on the credibility of sports competitions and on the credibility and reputation of sports organisations.”

In a nutshell good governance and integrity matters. Sport stake holders and partners should demand nothing less. Sport leaders who don’t measure up and are creating more problems than they solve should be held accountable for their decisions and mistakes and actions.

Incompetence, fraud, misappropriation, corruption, abuse and misuse of office must not be swept under the carpet.

Ignoring the problems and hiding the truth will not make the problems go away. They will only get worse.

Most times, anyway, leaders who are beneficiaries of a slap on the wrist become serial offenders, hubristic and a law on to their own selves.

When they eventually leave office they leave deep almost intractable problems known and unknown that have to be solved. The challenge then becomes solving those problems while at the same time protecting the good name, reputation and image of sport.

Taking responsibility changes everything’. You have to step up. Ask yourself what part am I playing and what is the one thing I can do?

How do sport organisations, sport stakeholders respond to this crisis in leadership?

In times of crises, you must have the courage to stand up and take responsibility, anything else will be useless.

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

Source

Public and media opinion seem to be squarely in the corner of T&T sport. Everyone appears to agree that sport can do wonderful things for this country.

Opinion surveys will probably show that public sentiment and mood is that our sportsmen and women and national sport organisations must be financially supported. Nowhere is there anything but overwhelming support.

No matter where you go, the prevailing opinion is that sport can play a major role. No argument. As far as the majority is concerned, there is a vision for the role of sport in T&T. Why isn’t that strong vision and overwhelming support not translating into financial support?

Some have argued that sport here is suffering from a lack of respect for process and structure. In the absence of a systematic disciplined way of doing things, there is no way a coherent implementation plan can be put in place.

How can there be oversight responsibility if every chief, cook and bottle washer run in different directions all hell bent on doing their own thing?

How do we build respect for process and structure, develop more organised structures and work within guidelines? It cannot be done helter skelter.

There are a number of groups and organisations doing excellent work within local sport. Loads of money appear to be floating around. So why is sport struggling to attract funding? Is it a perception or a reality?

There are those who suggest that within sport, funding is not going to the people and groups doing the best work with a proven track record. How do you separate fact from fiction?

What can’t be denied is that sport in T&T is in need of funding.

Where is it going to come from and who will provide it?

If you want an excellent example of a sport programme that most people feel deserving of support, the Eddie Hart Football League is one.

I attended the opening of the Eddie Hart League at the Tacarigua savannah on Sunday. The League is celebrating its 48th year.

The enthusiastic gathering included Member of Parliament for Tunapuna and Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Winston Dookeran, chairman of the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation, alderman Edwin Gooding and deputy chairman Esmond Forde and justice Sebastian Ventour.

The gathering highlighted the power of sport to cross the divide, be it politics, class, social standing, race and religion.

The vision and energy of the league’s founder remains undiminished, notwithstanding the fact—as he alluded to in his address—that there are many obstacles and tribulations.

That Hart has championed the cause of the League for 48 years is a reflection of his indomitable will and passion for sport, the community of Tunapuna, football, the young men and women and children who participate in the league.

The presence of the Police and Prison bands and steel bands created a patriotic Trinbagonian ambience.

The march past had a variety of displays, some more creative and precise than others. The exhibition match between two Pro League teams Massy Caledonia Aia and San Juan Jabloteh signaled a message that sport has no borderline.

However, one couldn't help but sense an undertone of frustration at the fact that the League is still in an annual struggle to attract the funding and financial support that is needed.

It no longer makes sense to ask why.

The real question may well be: Why do we tolerate and accept these contradictions in our society?

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