Trinidad and Tobago made history on Sunday by winning the 4x400m relay gold at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London.
It was our second medal, following Jereem “The Dream” Richards bronze in the men’s 200m event—and our best showing at a World Games in 20 years.
We have plenty to celebrate, but before we spend more time calling for another holiday, while criticising the athletes who didn’t medal, there are a few things we should consider.
Medals don’t come overnight. All of us have to do a better job at supporting our athletes through thick and thin. Donate your time, your skills and yes, YOUR money. Go to the NAAA Championships in the stadium, buy an official Team TTO jersey, play the ‘Going for Gold’ scratch game. Be the 12th man for our athletes in every sport from football to track and field, cycling, field hockey, volleyball and swimming.
When Machel Cedenio anchored TeamTTO to Pan-American relay gold in the 4x400 in 2015, he said he heard the cheers of the 20 “Trinis” in the stands chanting his name, willing him to come from behind to win. Stop saying that the Government needs to do more. I know we hate taxes so I won’t dare suggest the government follow the UK’s lottery funding model, but the reality is if 10,000 people donated $5.00 a month that would be a $50,000 a month/$600,000 a year in support.
The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) Athlete Welfare and Support Fund provides medal bonuses and other services to our athletes when they win. Make that feeling of pride when you heard the national anthem play on International TV last night count.
Finally, ease up on the negativity when our athletes don’t win medals, especially if you know you’re only capable of beer bicep curls and ‘selfie’ squats.
Create something worthwhile, and corporate T&T’s coins will come. Like us, they can be risk-averse “bandwagonists.”
The reality is that we’re in a down economy where marketing budgets are often the first to get cut. Plain talk, bad manners, our National Sporting Organizations (NSOs) and athletes need to position themselves better. Businesses exist to create value for their shareholders. The challenge then is to create ‘products’ that corporations want to get behind, either because they fit into existing Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, or because they have the potential to attract new customers and value to the bottom line.
It is not solely the private sector’s responsibility to create a sustainable sport industry. We do however need entrepreneurs and corporations who are passionate about sport and willing to make small investments that can make the world of difference. This can include donating part proceeds of a popular Carnival fete, partnering with an NSO to create a unique event and splitting the profits, or simply donating a percentage of the sales of a popular product on Independence Day to an NSO of your choice.
Support the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee. Of all the sporting organisations in T&T, they have shown themselves to be forward thinking, athlete centred and committed to finding ways to build a sustainable sporting industry. In recent times they have launched a line of jerseys, a “text to donate” campaign surrounding the Rio Olympics and the Going for Gold game with the National Lotteries Control Board. I look forward to the new campaigns that president Brian Lewis hinted at recently on Twitter, because we do need quick and easy ways to donate through text, credit cards and cause marketing initiatives tied to campaigns that remind us of the power of sport to inspire a nation.
Stop playing politics with sport. Our athletes and their sporting successes should not be political pawns to buy votes. We need a comprehensive vision for sport development backed by clearly defined policies and incentives.
At the elite level we need a targeted approach, built in performance metrics and a sustainable reward programme that includes our paralympic champions.
The beauty of sport lies in its unpredictability but we cannot wait until we win to plan for the future and or inspire a generation. The future starts now. Every effort should be made to administer programmes and disperse funds in a transparent fashion, because we can’t afford another LifeSport debacle.
Thank our national athletes. Our athletes represent the best of us by exercising a level of discipline and commitment that should be respected and admired. On behalf of an ungrateful nation, thank you!
That being said, it is unfortunate that we don’t see or hear from many of you unless you’re bemoaning the lack of financial support available. I know you work very hard, but many of your fellow citizens don’t.
Please stop asking for holidays when you win. Another public holiday on an event calendar that’s littered with them does nothing to improve national productivity, help you get a medal bonus and or reduce the rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes that keep driving up national healthcare costs. Costs that undoubtedly impact the level of support the Government is able to allocate to other sectors including sport. If, on the other hand, you want a fitness inspired celebration at schools across the country, or want to lend your celebrity status to a fitness themed brunch party to raise funds for other athletes and or worthy causes, there are plenty of event committees, public relations and marketing people that can help you do it.
As we bask in the success of Sunday’s victory, let it serve as a reminder that all of us need to work harder and smarter together if we are to achieve more podium successes. For once, let’s pay more than token lip-service to the words, together we aspire, together we achieve.
Corporate Communications Consultant
FIFA CIES Diploma Sport Management