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Power of Sport
Posted: Sunday, July 5, 2009

By Derren Joseph
July 05, 2009

There is something uniquely beautiful and magical about the Queen's Park Savannah. The scenery and energy you experience early in the morning is so uplifting.

logoThat is what was going through my mind last Saturday, as I was running around the Savannah with our running group—the Mall Crawlers. I am no great runner, but I do enjoy a good morning run—especially on weekends. At the same time, anything more than six to eight miles is too much for me. I regret not getting more involved in sports as a teenager. I guess I was, and probably still am, more of a nerd.

The Vision 2020 document captures sports under the pillar of "developing a caring society." It recognises the importance of developing youth, sports and recreation in our beautiful country. It also recognises the need for "close co-operation from all members of the sporting fraternity and youth groups: athletes, coaches, administrators, officials, parents, the media, youth groups, NGOs, as well as the Government, if the vision for sport and youth development is to be achieved."

In summary, the document recommends that:

– Modern sporting facilities be established;

– Training and development of personnel involved in the development of sport in the country be a priority;

– Sporting scholarships for youth be established; and

– Community-based groups, as well as local government, work together to promote sport.

So I had a look at the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs' Web site, and the University of Trinidad and Tobago's (UTT) Web site to see what has been happening. Over the past two years, the Academy of Sports and Leisure Studies at the UTT has managed to establish programmes both for athletes and for members of the wider community.

There are certificate options, and now, there is a bachelor's degree in sport studies with four areas of specialisation. For those ready for post-graduate work, there are two master's degree options as well as doctoral (PhD) options. For those who do not meet the official university entry requirements, there is a pre-university programme. So, no one is excluded. I had the opportunity to chat with Ken Butcher, executive manager at the Academy of Sports and Leisure Studies at the UTT, who explained how encouraging the response to their programmes had been.

Even at the doctoral level, they already have four candidates, with eight to ten to come on board in the 2009/2010 academic year. In fact, all of the programmes have been over-subscribed!Ken also spoke about the High Performance Unit, which focuses on student-athletes, selected to develop their potential to national and international level.

There are 130 student-athletes there on full scholarship. These include six of the 12 members of the present under 21 national netball team, as well as five of the 12 members of the present national volleyball team. In basketball, there are two UTT players on the present national team, and in volleyball there are five students on the national team, with two of them being awarded joint MVPs in the last international tournament.

UTT is working with several national sporting organisations, and as such several national coaches are working jointly with UTT's High Performance and National teams. These include, Larry Gomes in cricket, Bridget Adams in netball, Terry Layton in basketball, Aleena Edwards in table tennis, Vicki Boodram in boxing and Francisco Cruz in volleyball.

Right now, the Central American and Caribbean Age-Group Aquatic Championships is taking place in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. It runs until July 6. We have a strong contingent over there. Ken explained that the entire relay team of Stefan Mader, Strasser Sankar, David Edwards and Joshua McLeod are UTT students.

Good luck, guys!

Other sports supported by UTT include football, chess, rugby and sailing. The cricket team is being promoted from the north championship division to the premier division. Finally, UTT student-athletes represented are among those in the present men's and women's table tennis finals. I am encouraged that positive things are happening, but I imagine it is still the beginning.

Kudos to Ken Butcher and the UTT team. Let us continue to support our young men and women as they continue to make us proud in the many sporting disciplines.

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