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 But because so many of us are being held back by outdated methods and thinking the true reality of the enormous potential and opportunities can’t be realised.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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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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Sport, carnival and our Carnival mentality combined together, is a powerful force for good and may well be the key to T&T becoming a great Olympic Sport nation and the basis for a sustainable sport industry.

Nobody does carnival like we do. It can’t be explained, you have to experience the outer body bliss that is T&T carnival.

Instead of celebrating our carnival mentality, we celebrate corruption, skulduggery, mediocrity, impropriety, slipshod performance, a poor work ethic, ineptitude and incompetence.

The inherent creativity, inventiveness, work ethic, integrity, sincerity, determination and innovativeness in our carnival DNA is our strength and comparative advantage.

What allows the rank and file of our society to express and vent their frustrations, anger, and despair better than our carnival? We laugh at ourselves and get loose.

Carnival, sport, art, culture, and our music are who we are as a people and as a nation.

Yet we allow self serving tribal instincts to stand in the way of our affirmation and embrace of our Trinbagonianness.

The other point I want to touch on today is good governance.

The T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) as the authority, voice and representative body of Olympic and Commonwealth sport has a duty, obligation and responsibility to stand up and champion the cause of sport and good sport governance without fear or favour regardless of which political party is in government.

Last week I met with Minister of Sport, Senator the Honourable Brent Sancho and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sport, Richard Oliver. What struck me more than their words spoken in the hour long meeting was the sincerity of their patriotic vibes and energy.

In the meeting, the TTOC made no out-of-the-ordinary financial demands. The talks focused on sport related structural, systemic and policy issues. Most importantly good governance.

There were no false airs. It was a respectful but frank exchange of views and ideas.

The kind of exchange true patriots can have when the only agenda and motive is what’s in the best interest of sport and the young people and youth involved in sport.

I expressed the view that no public funds should be handed out to any national sport organisation, governing body or club failing to meet basic principles of good governance. Sport organisations and individuals in receipt of public funds need to remember there is a freedom of information act.

There must be proper accounting for funds received and no further funding given for failure to properly account for funds received. I also shared with the new Minister the TTOC’s intention to establish a good governance code for TTOC affiliated sport organisations.

I left the Ministry of Sport encouraged that there is:

(1) a shared vision, commitment and dedication to ensure that sport in T&T is held to the highest standard of good governance possible

(2) that the best interest of the athletes is the priority

(3) that the Ministry of Sport will be a good governance role model for the sport fraternity in T&T.

(4) Minister Sancho supports 10 or more Olympic Gold medal by the year 2024 (#10golds24) and the concept of the TTOC #10golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund.

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Just about one month ago I embarked upon and successfully completed the 26.2 mile journey that constituted the Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon from Freeport to Port of Spain.

The marathon walk had no other motive than to raise awareness, attention and funding for the 10 or more Olympic Gold medals by the year 2024 athlete welfare and preparation.

I accept that there are individuals inside and outside sport who don’t share the view that the concern I am trying to highlight has merit or substance. For reasons best known to themselves they refuse to acknowledge, admit or accept that there is need to provide more meaningful financial support to the young talented and dedicated sons and daughters of our soil.

The marathon walk enjoyed its moment in the sun but like everything else the major risk is that the objectives and goals will be subsumed by the nine day wonder syndrome.

It’s a syndrome that saps the spirit as well-intentioned efforts become an exercise in futility—quickly sinking into an ocean of insincerity and hypocrisy ending up on the sea bed of frustration, meaninglessness and cynicism.

If I have to walk a marathon every single day I will however remain dedicated to the cause of our talented sons and daughters who aspire to become Olympic champions.

This is a time for choosing if we want to be a part of creating a great society.

As we go about our daily lives there is a need for us to give a full day’s work for a day’s pay.

It applies not only to those earning a salary in the private and public sector. It doesn’t matter if you are a volunteer sport administrator, an athlete or a coach. Its more than just a monetary value — it’s about the effort you give and the purpose with which you live your life.

When we give a full day’s work for a day’s pay we remain eternally vigilant and pay forward to the next generation and the generation to come. We see ourselves as custodians and stewards of the totality of the space called La Trinity—Trinidad and Tobago.

When we give a full day’s work for a full day’s work for a day’s pay we honour the notion of national pride and civic duty that builds a nation.

Great leaders such as Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi have shown that a nation is first founded on the stories that it tells — and silences — to justify its existence.

Their messages and example have taught organisation and the importance of attacking the issues of the day and era. They didn’t talk around issues; they attacked them head on in the battleground of social awareness.

Those of us born and bred in the space called T&T carry in our bosoms a duty to not allow our secret frustrations to keep us from being a champion of hope to the young people of this nation. You can’t think negative thoughts and live a positive life. We can all do something of significance and life a live of purpose. The grass isn’t greener somewhere else. We have to say to the youth and young people of this nation don’t quit on yourself, your job, your life, your dream or your country. Don’t throw in the towel and walk away. Don’t just go through the motions.

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

Support #10golds24 Athlete welfare and preparation fund. Make your donations to any branch of Scotia Bank Acc# 171188

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The decision to walk the 26.2 distance in the T&T International Marathon had a twofold motive—to raise awareness and funding for the 10 Olympic medals or more by the year 2024 #10golds24 athlete welfare and preparation fund.

Many have asked what I was thinking about when I decided to do the marathon. My main thought was the athletes and what could I do to raise awareness and support for the concept of a fund dedicated to athletes.

In the lead up to the marathon and since successfully completing the marathon the expressions of support have far exceeded the negatives.

Now the hard work will be to get the funding to match the expressions of support.

Raising awareness is not sufficient or good enough. This is not a one-and-done journey.

There will be many trials and tribulations, but what will prove essential is the spirit of resilience and perseverance.

I believe in the very core of my being that the talent we have here is enormous and that the reality is that many of our young athletes have greatness and the potential to be great inside of them.

What they need is the support and people around them who can nurture their self-belief.

I believe that our athletes are capable. I believe that this country can produce more Olympic champions.

Not everyone has to believe that it is possible. We just need a small band of determined and dedicated enablers who have the conviction that our young people deserve a chance.

During my walk, at one of the lowest points when I was hurting mentally, physically and emotionally, a little girl about eight or nine years old standing on the pavement near a water stop gave me a donation of $85 dollars. I recall looking at the little girl and at her donation and saying to Sgt Roger Daniel: “I have to finish.” That little girl represented why I was doing the walk. She reminded me that the children, youth and young people as represented by the nation’s athletes wanted to aspire for something greater.

It is a moment and an interaction I will never forget because it served to shake me out of a moment of self-doubt.

#10GOLDS24 is an affirmation that we can aspire and achieve big goals. It’s a dare and a challenge. Do we have what it takes? Do we believe that we can achieve Olympic greatness?

That so many people have expressed their support is a clear indication that many of us have the self-belief that we deserve better than we are currently getting.

All that has happened over the years is that we were brainwashed into thinking that we didn’t have what was required and therefore must be grateful for small mercies.

I enjoyed the walk. It was tough, but I enjoyed it.

The teamwork, the support, the camaraderie.

On two occasions I had to receive treatment for severe cramp but at no time did those walking with me suggest that I would have to quit.

Quitting just wasn’t on the cards.

So where do we go from here? How do we build on the momentum of the successful completion of the marathon walk?

Time will tell. But rest assured there is no turning back.

#10GOLDS24 Athlete welfare and preparation is underway.

Donations are required on an ongoing basis and can be made at any Scotia Bank. The TTOC’s account number is 171188 or by cheque made payable to TTOC and mailed to or dropped off at Olympic House 121 Abrecromby Street, Port-of-Spain.

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