Athletes sacrifice years of their lives striving to compete at the very highest level. They dream of taking part in the Olympic Games and World Championships.
When sport administrators and coaches put their egos and self interest first, dreams are destroyed, sacrifices are wasted, unnecessary obstacles and adversity are placed in the path of athletes who aspire to be the best they can be. The level of hypocrisy in many instances is subtle but no less appalling. Public utterances are more for show and public relation image building.
Putting athletes first is just empty words. There are some administrators who behave as if they harbour resentment at the success of their athletes—”in my day I catch my nennen. Athletes of today want things too easy.” Athletes are our priority. No ifs, buts or maybe.
If the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee ( TTOC ), national sport organisations and governing bodies aren’t focused on creating the best environment possible for athletes then they are not serving their purpose and mission.
The right to be called a national Olympic Committee, a national sport organisation or governing body carries with it by definition the ultimate responsibility.
Only a National Olympic Committee can enter a team in the Olympic Games. Only a national sport organisation or a national governing body affiliated to an International Federation can enter a national team in a regional, continental or world championship.
The sacrifice, talent and dedication of athletes who aspire and dream of being the best they can be and of standing on the podium must be supported. We have to go beyond the parade of bacchanalia, illusion of objectivity, uncivil exchanges and dragging and airing of dirty laundry.
The world of sport is going through something of a revolution on many fronts. Sport leaders are facing unprecedented challenges and are perceived as generally out of sync with the world of modern sport.
Making a positive difference requires going past a theoretical understanding of sport and high performance sport. Seeing talent flourish and dreams come to life is meaningful and can’t necessarily be reconciled by money or return on money invested.
Sport leaders are perceived as takers rather than contributors. Either lost or struggling to catch up as the pace of change, language, new technology and thinking of modern sport may be beyond our capabilities or capacity.
But at a common sense level, all it requires is a willingness to help our athletes figure out where they want to go, what they want to do with their lives and helping them make sense of it all. Helping them live their dreams, passion and aspiration to make the best of their talent and potential and represent Trinidad and Tobago with pride and honour.
Reduce the stress and emotional turmoil. In other words human empathy and a focus on the human element of the process. Be both shield and sword.
Think around corners and outside conventional wisdom and structures. Be a source of support and positivity even in the bleakest of times. Understand their needs and expectations. Given the complexities, contention and public scrutiny, sport leaders and administrators are challenged to find the right, nuanced approach—which involves being creative and pragmatic.
The world of sport is going through one of the most difficult periods in the modern history of organized sport. The difficulties contain opportunities to do things differently.
However things are today, tomorrow they need to be better. Leaders are ultimately responsible for making things better. All that matters is making things better—embrace adversity, shoulder the blame. It is not about being right, proving a point or your ego—Its about making things better.
Brian Lewis is president of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC). The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee.