BDF sports programme terminated
The Barbados Defence Force’s (BDF) national sports programme is being shut down.
The nursery for hundreds of talented youths over the last three decades comes to an abrupt end at month-end.
The abandonment of the sports programme means an end to opportunities that it provided in cricket, football, track and field, boxing and table tennis over the last 28 years.
BDF Chief of Staff Colonel Glyne Grannum delivered the shocking news to stunned participants and coaches at a meeting held on Tuesday.
Efforts yesterday to reach new Minister of Sport John King proved futile but informed sources told the Weekend Nation that the abandonment of the programme was a governmental cost-cutting measure.
The latest crop of recruits had enlisted in the three-year programme only a few months ago.
“It really is a breach of contract. All of these young men were to have been part of a three-year programme. The boys got little notice and it really has them licked up. This is a major setback. I don’t know what the young cricketers will do now.
“Nothing was communicated in writing; it was a hastily arranged meeting that was called a few days ago. I do not even think that the national federations were informed,” a source said.
The sports programme produced fitter and stronger athletes and was the nurturer since the mid-1990s of some of this country’s leading sportsmen, including Test cricketers Tino Best and Miguel Cummins; Olympic athletes Henrico Atkins, Roger Jordan and Prisca Phillips; champion boxers Junior Greenidge and Shawn Terry Cox; ace footballers Gregory “Lalu” Goodridge, Horace Stoute, John Parris, Wayne Sobers and Malcolm Payne, along with Caribbean table tennis champions Robert Roberts and Trevor Farley.
The BDF sports programme was responsible for the rise of athletes such as Joy Ann Eli, Shawn Browne, Garfield Gill and Donna Hinkson in the 90s; and the coming to the fore of young cricketers such as Antonio Greenidge, Tevyn Walcott and Jameel Stuart.
Kimberly Gittens, who recently captured a bronze medal in women’s boxing at the recent Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Colombia, is the last outstanding recruit of the programme.
Best was still part of the programme when he made his Test debut against Australia at Kensington Oval in 2003. He acknowledged that he would not have made it as an international cricketer without the sports programme.
“The BDF sports programme has made me. I have gotten all of my attributes such as discipline and mindset from the sports programme. The programme produced fitter and stronger athletes,” he said.
Best is livid that the programme has been shelved.
“I am angry and heartbroken. There are national cricketers in the sports programme; there are footballers who play in the Premier League. It is unbelievable that after so many years that the Government is disbanding this programme that has done so much.
“Is this the Government that we just voted in? We can’t do this to the young people. You don’t put 60 people between the ages of 17 and 24, who are athletes, to go on the streets and look for a club.
“You can’t cut sports. If there is one thing you shouldn’t cut it’s sports development. The biggest star to have come out of this country is Sir Garfield Sobers, a sportsman. We have to do better,” Best said.
President of the Barbados Table Tennis Association, Dale Rudder, said the decision had serious implications for table tennis and sports in general.
“This is major. I hope that this economic and fiscal measure is not permanent. We have two players in the programme, teenager Dan Francis and national representative Kristian Doughty. How do we explain to them the way forward?” he said.
Director of cricket at the BCA, Steven Leslie, was unaware of the decision, which he says will have repercussions for the BDF sports programme’s team in the Elite Division. All of those matches after next month will be forfeited, he said.
BDF Chief of Staff Colonel Glyne Grannum.