Athletes can’t be competitive in elite sport without some form of financial support.
Even though many athletes in T&T are amateur in that they don’t earn a living from their sport, their ambition to achieve excellence in their sport demands supreme effort.
The net result is training is full time. In fact it’s not only the athletes. Coaches, administrators and officials at the highest levels of competition are essentially full time.
Being professional in your approach to the various roles and responsibilities is a requirement. Taking extended leave from work in order to prepare for major competitions is more the rule than the exception.
I envisage the day in T&T when elite level athletes can carve out a career that pays the bills. Commercial opportunities will increasingly become a reality. Our most talented athletes receive extensive media coverage and will generate income both on and off the field.
It’s important to prepare our athletes for the bright lights. There will always be additional stresses. Coping and learning how to cope is important. Managing their time and energy and balancing the demands is going to be a high demand skillset.
Sponsors as willing as they may be, will still want to ensure their brand is looked after.
Attending functions and meet and greet aren’t an impediment to meeting performance targets but a reasonable contractual obligation. Code of conduct clauses will impose certain duties.
Managing the conflicting demands isn’t for the faint hearted or clueless. Each stakeholder has a crucial role to play.
Sport in T&T is bursting at its seams.
At the Olympic Games the interest and pressure to perform is tremendous. The IOC has its own world wide sponsors who pay for exclusive rights to the Games emblems. Each National Olympic Committee has its own sponsors who pay for their product to be the Olympic team official partner.
Athletes also have their own sponsors.
There is potential for conflict and managing the conflict requires huge reservoirs of goodwill. With just under one year to go to Rio decisions need to be made. There is no time to quibble or be indecisive.
For our athletes there is too much at stake. Athlete-first and athlete-centredness is not about being passive.
At the TTOC, athlete-first and athlete-centred is who we are and what we do every single day. Raising the bar in respect of service levels is placing great demands on everyone. But meeting the service expectations is what the Olympic Committee is about.
In order to meet the expectations of the athletes, clarity in respect of delivery of specific services are a high priority. Satisfying expectations means having an integrated approach to communication and assessment of the impact of all communications.
There are many who say they are athlete-centred. Being athlete-centred is easier said. Ten or more Olympic gold medals by 2024 must be athlete centred if the programme is not athlete centred it will have a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.
Closing the gap between expectations and perceptions where they exist is important. The TTOC is currently making efforts to understand what athletes expect of the TTOC. Understanding their expectations means you can meet them.
Brian Lewis is the President of the T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee. Support #10 Golds24 Athlete Welfare and Preparation Fund make your donations to any branch of Scotiabank account number 171188