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Our sports needs a fresh start

Like all citizens I was elated over the gold and bronze medal victories at the IAAF World Championships in London, August 4–13. I hope that those who were unsuccessful will improve their preparation in the respective events.

What I found to be interesting were the comments made by some, that the government must now sit and plan ways to finance and compensate these athletes in order to gain more sporting success.

I was fully aware that financial assistance was handed out to our Olympic-level athletes during the life of their preparation leading up to events like the Commonwealth Games, the World Championships, and the Pan American Games in various sporting disciplines.

I do not recall those who performed well in the early fifties or even to the mid-sixties being compensated for representing their country. It may have started with sprinter Hasely Crawford, and boxers Claude Noel and Leslie Stewart who brought honour to the nation for their outstanding results.

Not long ago, 400m hurdler Jehue Gordon was the recipient of a home when he won the gold medal at the Moscow 2013 World Championships. This precedent may well be retained, especially as fans, families and the media have already begun discussing even more now how to compensate our champions.

Now, I do not know the answer to the financial support by the government for medal winners, or even for those who may not have won a medal. However, I am more concerned over the fact that many of the sporting disciplines do not have the methodology to develop potential athletes at primary school level.

Even if we believe that Physical Education is one way to start, it has not worked well, especially as there are too few PE teachers in the schools. Coaches who are employed are not sufficiently qualified to generate the quality performances in the early stages where the children can be more readily attuned to their progress.

Having been fortunate to see the process at work at high school and university levels in the USA, I can categorially state that we are sadly on the wrong track in almost every sporting discipline.

Turning to football, the picture has become much clearer now than it was prior to our September 5 match against Panama. T&T is not going to be at Russia 2018 World Cup. We have two final matches in October: away to Mexico, and at home to the USA. People have been asking me about the future of our national football and how will it be handled.

Recently, there was an announcement made by the new technical director for a programme throughout the country where players will be brought together not only to show their skill, but to be coached by some of the country’s chosen youth coaches.

I do recall that in 1972, I was given the honour of preparing our national U-20 squad to play in the first CONCACAF U-20 series in 1974 in Canada. For two years, my staff and I traversed every village or community screening potential players in their own environment, and then the outstanding ones joined chosen groups in the zones. Players were scrutinised for one year before selecting five zonal teams which consisted of north, east, south and central Trinidad, and Tobago.

Today, the new technical director is prepared to start afresh with a similar pattern, but with an age group which he had prepared way back in 2004. It worked beautifully for him and it makes good sense to start the repair process from this project. What it needs is the support of the Trinidad & Tobago Football Association, zonal associations, sponsors, parents, and of course, media.

I think our players have as much to learn about life on as well as off the field. They must be trained to understand the goals of the project and allow coaches to learn much more about these youngsters.

I view this move as a developmental formula whereby our young players will achieve a more expansive approach to life and in the process, advance their natural skills technically and tactically as they grow older. This is where our future must be refurbished.

We cannot rush time. Let the coaches do their job. Let’s support them totally, and the picture may be completely different look in the next few years.