Time for radical change

Andi Thornhill,

Added 17 October 2012

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I am glad to see some challenge to the sporting status quo in Barbados. It will bring about much needed change to the way the business of sport is conducted here. Even if the bid isn’t successful at today’s Barbados Olympic Association’s (BOA) elections, it will send a strong message to incumbents that they must shape up or be shipped out. The strong impression is often given that some administrators are untouchables and they should rule until thy kingdom come even if their track record is not impressive. The thing is they have been at the helm of their old boy’s club for so long without being challenged that they might actually intimidate some who may have ambitions of taking over. I think this might be one critical reason why it is possible to see the same faces on the councils of local organizations for over 20 years and even more than that in some instances. Honestly, you can’t blame sitting members if nobody comes forward to vie for their positions. There are a lot of people with something to offer but would only make their observations and state their complaints among a small pocket of friends. They can hardly make a difference from outside of an organization. Change starts from within. In the current climate, there’s a need for radical change in our approach to sports development or we will continue to talk about the potential in our sportsmen but not much more than that to show for it. The problem with the majority of the older heads is that they are stuck in the dark ages and have no vision for contemporary times. New wine in old bottles is only relevant if you are open-minded and willing to make adjustments to suit the times you are living in. Actually, I think the majority of associations can plead guilty in this area and their unimaginative governance is betrayed when independent entrepreneurs show them up by introducing concepts that win the heart of the masses and are usually successful. The out of season football model is a good example of this and I am pleading again for some group to do a similar thing for netball. Hats off to Paul White who has sustained beach volleyball as an industry here and in other Caribbean countries for several years. The Elite Relay Fair is another good example of this and somebody should see the possibilities of having a major track and field meet now that there will be a new track at the National Stadium and the Ryan Brathwaite Track at the Cave Hill Campus. Tennis Pon De Rock has been a success in its two outings to date and I am sure there are others in other disciplines who are perhaps conceptualizing similar ventures. I respect the view that nobody has a monopoly on ideas but I often wonder what part the lack of will plays in under-performing associations. We are certainly at the juncture in our sporting journey where athletes must be afforded the opportunity of competing for more than just trophies and a few words of goodwill. We must reach the stage where youngsters can grow up knowing they can earn a living from the discipline they are passionate about. It will take an overhaul in the national psyche but it must happen. I believe that if we continue to sit back and wait for cosmopolitan countries to fine-tune our sportsmen and create opportunities for them too, we are conceding that we cannot manage our resources ably. The Jamaica athletics programme puts that in perspective. We might be quick to say that the bigger countries have the money and other resources to put certain things in place but most of those countries rely heavily on corporate sponsorship to help finance schemes. I think corporations have a moral obligation to give back to consumers in a tangible way and should see that they are contributing to the building of a holistic society in which sports play a key role as a social glue. In essence, we need professional administrators with a team that can convince business leaders there is a bipartisan route to success by investing in sports. This is where the new blood comes in, for it is they who have to pioneer the push towards professionalism in sports otherwise we will continue to see people who have skills but aren’t motivated to see them bloom. It is very encouraging to see fledgling, national administrators like Ytannia Wiggins and Sasha Sutherland making an attempt to be directors on the board of the BOA. Several moons ago, it would have been rather unlikely to see people of their age mixing it up with much older people for senior sporting positions, but there’s nothing wrong with that if the old guard is holding up progress. It is time for some of them to be pushed, if they don’t step aside. • Andi Thornhill is an experienced award-winning freelance sports journalist.

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