T&T has what it takes to produce more champion athletes with greater consistency on the world stage, but the people in the spotlight just don’t realise the way to achieve these feats, rest in their way of life. That’s the view of Drew Cuffie, performance specialist at the US-based Michael Johnson Performance (MJP) Centre.

Cuffie, who specialises in regeneration and recovery at MJP, said while local athletes habitually look externally for sources of inspiration to ultimately achieve victory there were cultural dynamics that would infuse them to be world beaters. In a T&T Guardian interview at the T&T Olympic Committee’s (TTOC) office on Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, on Monday, Cuffie said MJP coaches have worked in Brazil, Puerto Rico and China and offered advice on ways to improve athlete performance, rather than try to impose US culture on their international associates.

“It’s about revamping the culture, enhancing it…not necessarily changing it. Ideally, if we are talking about T&T and the Carnival that’s approaching, you can see there is a high performance mentally towards getting ready for Carnival. So if we could use some of that same mentality to train and drive that into sport, I think that will help reach our goal of ten (Olympic) gold medals by 2024,” he said.

Cuffie was on local shores to work both with athletes and coaches for one month in keeping with an agreement reached between MJP and the TTOC. It followed a two-day bpTT/TTOC MJP High Performance workshop. The terms of that deal between TTOC and MJP required a specialist from that facility travel to T&T twice a year for the specified period to impart knowledge.

Coaching professionally over the past four years–two of which was at the Michael Johnson Performance Centre–Cuffie has been MJP’s ambassador to this country for the past year. He conducted workshops back in May and October in 2014. Double Olympic medallist Richard Thompson, Olympic medallist Emmanuel Callender, IAAF World champion 400m hurdler Jehue Gordon and Jarrin Solomon, another Olympic medal achiever, were among eight local athletes that have benefitted from the expertise of the centre’s faculty, so far.

Para Pan gold medallist Shantol Ince, hurdler Mikel Thomas, sprinter Michelle-Lee Ahye and cyclist Njisane Phillip completed the elite list. Apart from T&T athletes, young coach Shane Cooper was reputed to be the only national to date, to have studied at the centre. Cuffie said the MJP team hoped to receive more national coaches.

“We are still in the infancy of this project. Even though 2016 is around the corner, the overall goal is 2024. We have to keep that in mind and continue to work on it,” said Cuffie.

“Since I have been here, I have seen coaches that kind of do it all, where you have other professionals who specialise in different areas. Why not pool and use those resources? Hopefully the goals of the workshop will expose a systematic approach to training and then overall athleticism. While I’m here, I’m to show athletes, the coaches a way to help them improve athleticism.”

TTOC president Brian Lewis, left, chats with Drew Cuffie, regeneration and recovery specialist at the MJP Centre, trainee athletics coach Shane Cooper and volleyball coach Sean Morrison. PHOTO: SEAN NERO
Cuffie is from Arlington, Texas, USA, where he played cornerback for Abilene Christian University (ACU) Football Team. During his college career ACU won two Lone Star Conference Championships. He received his bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science and his master’s degree from Hardin-Simmons University in Kinesiology. Drew has been the assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Abilene Christian Football, softball, baseball, and soccer, golf and cross country teams.