An initial investment of BDS$1 million will be made by a newly formed company, Sport Knowledge Barbados Inc., to get the Barbados Olympic Association’s (BOA) proposed athlete funding programme off the ground later this year.
The Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) Programme seeks to identify and groom athletes within a national sporting structure from early age to elite status and funding will be sourced from several organizations which already fund sport.
BOA director Lt Col Trevor Browne, who conceptualized the programme and presented it to the major stakeholders, said it would mimic what had been done for education.
“At a young age, we give everyone a chance to come into the programme at a basic level and identify where people are talented – those who can jump, run, those with hand-eye co-ordination or whatever – and channel them where their talent can be maximized,” Browne said.
Athletes will be guided by the various national federations in their particular sport through the different stages of competition from local to Caribbean, Central American and Caribbean, Pan American, World and ultimately, the Olympic Games.
Browne said the five major stakeholders – the BOA, National Sports Council, the group of national federations, UWI Cave Hill and the Olympians Association – were all on board under the company.
Presentations were also made to Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley and senior officials in the Ministry of Education, while other key stakeholders included the Barbados Community College and the Government-run Arts and Sport Promotion Fund.
Approximately 300 athletes will be nominated by their national federations to join the LTAD programme with 20 to 30 enjoying elite status.
Browne, president of the Barbados Table Tennis Association, said there would be continuous assessment and a formal report on each individual would be submitted every six months.
“We have had a very good reception from all of the presentations that we had,” Browne said. “All of the stakeholders have actually bought into the programme. They like it. They agree it is a workable programme.”
However, he acknowledged that the way sport was perceived in Barbados may be the biggest obstacle they would face.
Responding to the perception that sport was “playing games” or a distraction from academics, for some people, while others saw it as a healthy mind in a healthy body which complemented academics,?Browne said: “If you look at the hype coming out of Olympics and what has happened to Jamaica, what is increasingly becoming obvious to the average Barbadian is that sport does present outstanding opportunities for success, in many cases better than academics.”
“We have also reached the stage where we have invested a lot of money in academics. We have people with a lot of degrees coming out, and the truth is, they are not always able to use the knowledge they have built up. We may well be reaching the limit in terms of academics, and sport presents a whole new area that is available to Barbados as a means of developing our people.
“The glory and national pride that comes from success in international sport is unbelievable. We need to promote that and market it. The leaders in sport need to change that mindset,” Browne added.