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UTT signs MOU for sports development

Yvonne Webb
Trinidad and Tobago Guardian
March 24th, 2009
The University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) together with the International Alliance for Youth Sports (IAYS) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish the first ever Research and Development Centre. Ken Butcher Executive Manager, Academy of Sports and Leisure Studies UTT, along with Fred Engh IAYS President signed on the dotted line at a simple ceremony held at the Petrotrin Staff Club, Pointe-a-Pierre a week ago.
This international centre, which will be located at the UTT's headquarters, will undertake research to know and understand the value of sports, by monitoring children involved in sports around the world and assess its impact on their lives. Similar centres have been established in Africa, Latin America, Caribbean and Asia Pacific.
"We would be able to collect data on children in Africa participating in sports and compare with how does that differ with someone in Latin America and find out their developmental stages," Engh explained. Engh said sports was the outdoor classroom of life. He said many believed it could prevent youngsters from a life of crime, violence and drug use, but there had been no data to support the theory, until now. Head of the UTT's research and development team Mark Mungal said the flagship programme for their study was the Game On Youth Sports initiative developed by the IAYS and its affiliates.
The programme is designed to provide countries with sports programming for children at school, after school and at community levels. Mungal said this international portfolio, to use sports as a tool to develop people, brought significant value to the two partners. President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) Larry Romany viewed the historic signing as a main step to making sports more sustainable. He advanced that the development of sports must start at the primary school and student level adding that coaches and administrators are challenged by the behavioural patterns on youths.
Engh in his address to the audience, which included retired cricket great Brian Lara, was critical of this country's lack of sports development programme for youths. He said he was surprised and disappointed that in the country which produced Lara and Olympic gold medallist Hasely Crawford, there were 228,000 children between the ages of 0 and 14 who were not involved in any form of physical education. "While many people in T&T would like to boast and say we have many more Brian Laras in this country, that isn't the case. I see no evidence of that," Engh said. He said the lack of development plans for athletes in this country was the reason why T&T had not produced an Olympic gold medallist since 1976. In an interview following the signing Lara, who supported the initiative, concurred with Engh.
Lara said because of the disorganisation of athletes, many of his peers, who had more talent and ability than him, were never able to fulfil their dreams.
He gave support to the new initiative. "Yes, there are many Brian Laras and Dwight Yorkes and Russel Latapys and Ato Boldons out there and there have been in the past. "But you know, they just went under the radar because of the lack of support. We really were the lucky ones.
"Engh mentioned that he has seen no evidence to produce sportsmen and he is right. We produced a gold medallist in 1976, but nothing since. You know we produced a couple decent cricket players, a couple decent soccer players, but in terms of churning out sportsmen at a regular level, we need these sort of programmes to ensure the kids are identified and seen by scouts or coaches and given the necessary skills. "This is definitely a programme that is going to produce that." Lara said he was fortunate to have benefited from organised sporting institutions and parental support. He also emphasised the importance of being an educated athlete.