NGC/NAAA Youth Elite Programme on track.

The challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic have not prevented the National Gas Company (NGC) and the National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago (NAAATT) from having an impact on the development of track and field through the Youth Elite Programme (YEP).

At a virtual media briefing, yesterday, the NGC/NAAA Youth Elite Programme handbook was launched. The briefing also provided an opportunity for YEP beneficiaries to speak about their experiences. Sprinter Avindale Smith expressed his gratitude.

“As a young, developing athlete, this programme has been a major help with regard to gym and medical assistance. With regard to any injury or medical assistance, the programme actually provides a lot. They cover almost every single bill.”

Smith is one of nine young athletes currently in tier one of the NGC/NAAA YEP. Also in the highest bracket of the programme are Jayden Scott, Shaniqua Bascombe, Savion Joseph, Shakeem McKay, Kelsey Daniel, Antonia Sealy, Gianna Paul and Janae De Gannes. Paul and De Gannes are the newest additions.

NGC’s Head, Corporate Social Responsibility, Myles Lewis outlined the YEP objectives.

“The programme seeks to provide coaching, medical assistance and other benefits to our elite athletes through effective administration, accountability, and the sound delivery of this programme.”

Coordinator Ian Carter spoke about the Covid-19 challenges faced by YEP athletes.

“Clearly, the pandemic has affected all athletes, and it did have some effect on us, particularly in the competition side of it. But fortunately for us we do have a partnership with Michael Johnson Performance (MJP). They provided some training programmes to keep the athletes active and to help them maintain a level of fitness.

“But with the lack of competition, there’s little we can do. We continue to liaise with the clubs and the coaches to monitor how the athletes are going, and we are hopeful that next year our athletes will be able to have a full competitive season. If not, there’s still an opportunity to take the kids out to compete in those islands that do have competitions.”

NGC’s Manager, Corporate Communications, Lisa Burkett gave some insight into the genesis of the YEP.

“Since Hasely Crawford’s epic run in 1976, many athletes have aspired to duplicate his Olympic gold medal achievement. The idea that a humble home in a small nation like Trinidad and Tobago could produce the fastest man on earth was nothing short of inspiring. It gave young athletes hope and belief. It proved that there is talent among us, the potential for greatness, and that with passion and the right support our homegrown talent can conquer the world.

“These two ingredients of passion and support are indispensable to success. Passion comes from within. Athletes must have that hunger and ambition to go after their goals. And unfortunately only a fraction of our talented youngsters nurture dreams of building careers in sport. For those that do, however, external support is crucial to living the dream. Translating talent and passion into achievement requires training, financial assistance, mentorship and emotional and moral support. This can be the sticking point for many athletes.

“We at NGC have long recognised the role that corporate T&T can play in athletes’ success by building a strong support system for track and field. We believe that no athlete’s potential should go unfulfilled for lack of training or equipment or opportunity. For this reason, we are long-standing partners of the industry and have invested heavily in track and field over the years to help equip our athletes with the tools they need to succeed.

“The most recent project that we have embarked upon with the NAAA is the Youth Elite Programme. The programme aims to help these athletes attain excellence in track and field, while emphasising the significance of having an all-round academic and life skills foundation. As we look forward to the future of the YEP initiative, we decided it would be worthwhile to produce a handbook.”

NAAATT acting president George Comissiong explained the rationale for publishing the YEP handbook.

“A single source document that brings together all the relevant information with respect to the programme. It clearly outlines the expectations, the rights and obligations if you like of the two major players, NGC and NAAA, as well as provide general information on the programme.

“In the handbook you can find the different services being provided, the benefits, the accounting procedures, the reporting arrangements so that all parties in the programme—parents, coaches, the athletes themselves--know exactly what is expected of them.”