Track and field officials in the dark over PM's athlete exchange comments

In this July 10, 2017 file photo, Keshorn Walcott gives pointers to children who took part in the Atlantic National Primary Schools Track and Field Development camp, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.
In this July 10, 2017 file photo, Keshorn Walcott gives pointers to children who took part in the Atlantic National Primary Schools Track and Field Development camp, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.

OFFICIALS FROM the National Association of Athletics Administrations of Trinidad and Tobago (NAAA) and the Secondary Schools' Track and Field (SSTF), say they have no knowledge of arrangements to have local athletics administrators sent to Jamaica or have young Jamaica student-athletes travel to TT.

Newsday spoke with NAAA general secretary Dexter Voisin and SSTF president Joseph Brewster about the potential arrangement suggested by the Prime Minister at the opening of the Mahaica Sports Complex in Point Fortin on Saturday.

"We, the NAAA, heard that comment for the first time and we don't have any idea what that is about," Voisin told Newsday.

PM Rowley, speaking at a function to unveil the 1,795-seater complex, said he and Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness discussed and agreed that TT would send administrators to Jamaica "to learn from the Jamaican organisers who organise the world-famous Champs (Jamaica)."

Champs Jamaica is the largest and most popular athletics competition in the country, challenged by high school teams, with the athletes' ages ranging from ten to 19.

Dexter Voisin

"I promised him (Holness) that TT will take up the offer," Rowley said, adding that Jamaican children, who are scheduled to participate in the Champs programme will also be invited to TT.

"We have huge pools of talent in our schools.

"We can learn from a Caricom neighbour. Jamaican youngsters will come here and compete and out of that arrangement talent will flow from here to the international stadium and we can create more opportunities."

Newsday called and e-mailed the Ministry of Communications at the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday and received a reply shortly after saying the request for clarity and more information will be forwarded to communications director George Elias.

Voisin said as he was unaware of any such programmes in the works, and because of the ambiguity of Rowley's use of the word "administrator", was unable to give an informed comment.

"To be honest, I don't know what they are speaking about.

"Transferring of knowledge, if I am to understand what the statement is about, (covers) a wide range (administratively)," he said.

Voisin noted that programmes in which student-athletes visit TT is not new. He said perhaps if this arrangement was geared to student-athletes, it would involve the SSTF, not the NAAA.

"I would imagine, if schools are mentioned, I'd want to think he's referring to that group. At the NAAA, although we work closely with everyone for the benefit of track and field, that committee is separate."

He noted existing exchange programmes, including the one which saw Cuban coaches training athletes in TT, like Ismael Lopez Mastrapa, who has worked with Olympian Keshorn Walcott for at least a decade.

"What I can tell you, I am very close to with the Jamaica track and field administration (Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association).

"The president is my personal friend and I can tell you that they're not doing anything different to what we're doing in terms of administration... It boils down to the performance of the athlete.

"However, their athletes are performing much different to ours and if you look at coaching, you'll see a difference.

"So administration was used in the statement but I don't know (in) what context. Coaches can be administrators too. It's very vague."

Voisin said he will contact the Jamaica administration's president Garth Gayle, to for information he might have, if any.


While the SSTF – previously known as the TT Secondary Schools Track and Field Association is none the wiser as it relates to the PM's statements, they make for interesting dialogue on the topic of TT track and field, athlete development and administration.

"I've not been communicated to by anybody, (Ministry of) Education, Prime Minister's Office, sports office, nobody about that arrangement," Brewster told Newsday.

But going with Rowley's remark, "(TT) can learn from a Caricom neighbour," Brewster took no offence.

"Let me tell you something; you can learn from anything that is successful anywhere in the world.

"There is much to learn but more than learning, we have to implement."

Brewster said there is much to change, starting with the treatment of athletes, supporting them on their journey from youth and not just celebrating their successes.

"Our country is full of talent. We are overflowing with talent. Everyone knows this. How are we then able to develop and nurture that talent? It all lies in the schools system."

One of the stark differences between TT and Jamaica, he highlighted, is a culture of support for future star athletes prevalent in the latter.

Trinidad and Tobago Secondary Schools Track and Field president Joseph Brewster shows off his association's new logo during the launch of the 2022-2023 season at the Central Bank Auditorium in Port of Spain on August 30. Photo by Sureash Cholai

So much so, Brewster said, Olympic athletes like Yohan Blake and Shell-Ann Fraser-Pryce consider and treat teenage school athletes like the country's top stars, while TT society doesn't even respect its world-famous athletes.

"We need the support. The answers are right in front of us. (It calls) for decisive action. It calls for a change of culture, a change of perspective.

"We don't see what athletes do as making a viable living. We don't see sport in all its form as a vehicle to boost the national GDP. We don't view the different aspects of sport, in terms of athletes, journalism or sports medicine, like we see teaching or (healthcare) as important (professions).

Like Blake and Fraser-Pryce, he said TT's Walcott, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Jereem Richards, Jehue Gordon, and many others are key role-models at the secondary school level, having passed through the system.

"Yes, we have a lot of work to do, a lot to catch up on, but given the right support, they can make a massive difference."

Brewster says the association knows what needs to be done to catch up but cannot do it alone.

"It takes work at a different level."


"Track and field officials in the dark over PM’s athlete exchange comments"

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