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Sunday 18 March, 2018
Replacing Guns With Medals

Replacing Guns With Medals

There were many lessons to be learned from those who addressed the large gathering at last Friday’s 23rd edition of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee’s (TTOC) Annual Awards Gala, at the Hyatt Regency.

True the spotlight fell on the many award winners, which included the first ever Future is Female Award, the coveted Senior Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year, as well as the Sports Personality of the Year, the Junior Sportsman and Sportswoman Awards, the Alexander  B. Chapman Award, which recognises outstanding contribution to Sport and Olympism particularly in the promotion of Olympic ideals and the People’s Choice Award. Winners of all of these trophies have already been published since the function.

But what about the many words of wisdom from the speakers in a dazzling, crisp one-hour function mounted by Brian Lewis, president of the TTOC and his crew at Olympic House on Abercromby Street.

Lewis, himself, deserves an Award for all that he is doing down there. One sees constant creativity at the highest level from this former rugby player who now gives 100 per cent plus to the administration of sport in Trinidad and Tobago since his election as President in 2013.

“Let’s replace guns with medals!” Was the powerful challenge handed down by Lewis to the local sporting community for 2018, as he urged the large audience to use sport to bring about much needed change in the society.

“It is about not just winning medals. It is not just about ensuring that our athletes have the support that they need, it is not just about asking for, but giving more. It is about replacing guns by medals. It is about replacing guns and crime and the growth of crime by productive progressive citizens through the power of sport.”

In acknowledging the reality that another difficult year lies ahead, Lewis, who is also President of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees noted that passion, conviction, commitment and dedication were among the attributes needed for continued success.

“2018 will present significant challenges” said Lewis, “but I give you the assurance that working together, we will all contribute in making Trinidad and Tobago a better place. The times are tough. The hill is high but our indomitable will, our commitment, our dedication, our love for Trinidad and Tobago will propel us. Remember, the power of conviction requires character. We are a people of character. We are a people of creativity and innovation. Let us not relent.”

A congratulatory message from Pere Miro, Director of the Olympic Solidarity, was read which offered special congratulations to the TTOC for its continued success over the years, most notably in the achievement of gender equality on its Executive Board in 2017, where following elections earlier this year, there has been an even split of male and female officers.

Miro, who has attributed the feat in part to the TTOC’s “Future is Female” campaign — a strategy initiative geared towards promoting women’s involvement in the various areas of sport, wrote: “Such consistency is especially important these days with sport facing so many challenges, be it of economic or credibility nature. It is sport, built on solid foundations of the Olympic values that can combat apathy, crime, gang culture and other problems surfacing every day.”

The IOC and Olympic Solidarity also commended the relentless effort of the TT athletes, coaches, officials and administrators in promoting sport, Olympism and its values.

The feature speaker, Team Trinidad and Tobago (#TeamTTO) Olympian, Christopher George, shared his inspirational story of the Power of Conviction — Living Your Dream. And how truly inspirational the Judo Athlete was through his message based on three pillars which bring success: traditions, transitions and building tribes.

“The message I have for you is through recognising our traditions, constantly pivoting and building our tribes we can be great. All we need to do is endure and persevere.” George referred to the Trinbagonian lack of confidence in their ability even with a longstanding history of excellence. As a population we are critical of missteps of athletes and too easily forget there is a process to be a champion. As a country we have shining moments, get on the bandwagon of success and sometimes forget the hard work that individuals need to put in to achieve moments of excellence. And, do not give all the necessary support, often showing frustration with this reality.

While George could not claim to have the pill to cure this negative habit of Trinbagonians, he knew that the athletes need to take in their hands the only control we have: to be leaders. “We need to be tenacious, we have to learn to take our knocks and get back up every single time. We have to constantly remind Trinidad and Tobago, what our tradition is. And finally we need to accept our responsibility as ambassadors, and as leaders. We must show what needs to be done. The question you may ask is: how we do this? What I offer is simple: transition, pivot, and build our tribes.

“In 2012 I needed to make a decision on if I wanted to continue doing high-level sport. I had played water polo representing the country in different age groups through to our senior national team, and played for over 15 years. The team had qualified for the regional Olympic qualification event, the Pan American Games, but did not get to go because there was little belief that we could eventually qualify. This frustrated me, and to most it would have seemed to be a failure of sorts. But I still had the competitive fire. I decided to pivot.

I started a completely new sport. I did not see this as a new beginning, but a pivot, a transition. No one from Trinidad and Tobago had ever qualified for the Olympics in the sport of Judo and I saw an opportunity while everyone else saw a hindrance. In 2015, I qualified for the Pan American Games in Toronto and competed. In 2016, I qualified and competed in the Olympics. The rest as they say is history.”

How do we pivot, how do we change? The answer quite simply says George is “We build a team of individuals to help us. A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another.

A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.

“An individual’s first tribe is their family. Our parents, grand parents and loved ones know our dream because they have been with us every step of the way. What we need to do is learn how to communicate with others to build the foundations of our tribe. The components of this framework include positivity, sharing ideas, uplifting others, encouraging those who are going through the same process, and sometimes without even knowing it’s inspiring others to begin their own journeys. Our tribes thrive when we network.

George ended, “The message I have for you is through recognising our traditions, constantly pivoting and building our tribes we can be great. All we need to do is endure and persevere.”


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