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A THORNY ISSUE: UWI model a soaring success

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: UWI model a soaring success

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THE CAVE HILL Sports Academy is working.

I am happy that it is, too; otherwise people would be saying that some of the money coming from the public purse to help enable the project is being wasted.

Even so, I don’t think that particular perspective is driving the academy to achieve its goals. But we would have to conclude that the systems it has in place are bearing fruit in domestic competitions.

The quality of the personnel the academy has at its disposal is also a key to its success, but this could backfire if the right mechanisms aren’t created to get the best out of their respective squads.

Players generally respond according to the environment they are exposed to and it is no secret that the University of the West Indies (UWI) athletes are a lot more comfortable by miles than their opponents, who come from clubs or teams that don’t have the resources to compete with them.


Ordinary clubs begin at a disadvantage against UWI and it could well be that the gap will remain the same for years to come, unless they find financial godfathers to equate their structure with Cave Hill’s.

I believe that only the Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme (BDFSP) can boast of having a similar set-up to Cave Hill’s and that might be so because they are also funded from the public purse. We could argue that nowadays the BDFSP aren’t as successful as they used to be, apart from football, and their administrators will have to assess why this is so.

The turnover of those attached to the various disciplines could be one of the reasons and they may not always be getting the best stock as replacements.

Just goes to show that having resources doesn’t always produce the results you hope for because there could be other fundamental challenges waiting to undermine your best plans.

As spectators only see the end product when teams compete, we are never privy to what goes on behind the scenes to have a full understanding of why some teams succeed and why others fail.

I get the impression, though, that failure is not an option for Cave Hill and consequently they are always looking to refresh and improve their programme. Money complements the vision, so the ideas and the road map have to be in place first before you set out on your journey.

Cricket remains their flagship, and I believe they will always go the extra mile to keep it seaworthy because of the cultural significance of the sport.

However, it is equally important to have the players on the same page for them to play with a commitment and zeal that signal their intention to repay the faith placed in them by the policymakers.

Special magnet

I am sure head coach Floyd Reifer has considered putting aside his flannels, but there is a special magnet that draws him closer and closer to the cricket even though he’s getting older. It could be that his presence helps to motivate the others, especially the younger players. Point is they are the country’s dominant cricket team. Money well spent.

Gradually they have become major players in football and netball using the same model, we presume, as cricket.

The Blackbirds bring the same pride, industry and passion to the arena in football and netball as they do with cricket. You only have to see football coach Ricardo “Cracker” Goddard pacing up and down the sidelines issuing instructions to his charges and their response to understand what I mean.

Learning curve

The same thing applies to netball coach Margaret Cutting as she tries to get the best out of the players. On the evidence of this season’s returns their strategies have worked.

The footballers have earned the Digicel Premier League title in only their second season and, from my observations, this was achieved primarily through the desire not to play second fiddle to anyone. Last year was part of the learning curve because even if some have a dim view about the standard of the league, the players tell you a completely different story.

As I mentioned last week, results against Pinelands and Rendezvous shouldn’t be used to detract from their achievement. Generally, they had to dig deep to ward off strong challenges from dethroned champions BDFSP and other contenders like Weymouth Wales and Paradise.

The Blackbirds have turned senior netball into one-way traffic with their “A” team having an unassailable lead and racking up records in the process.

My honest assessment is that senior netball isn’t as strong as it used to be, but then again, you can only play against the opposition that’s presented.

I think the Barbados Netball Association must find a way surely to have more teams in the senior league as well.

Can you imagine what suspicions would have been raised if Blackbirds “A” had to play Blackbirds “B” in a game to decide the championship?

What I admire most about the Cave Hill programme is that they have been sharing their resources and facilities with other organisations. They currently have a memorandum Of understanding with the Barbados Football Association, allow the Barbados Hockey Federation use of the hockey field and have reached out to other sporting bodies to give assistance.

It appears to be an inclusive approach which stands to benefit sports across the board in Barbados.

• Andi Thornhill is a veteran sports journalist.