Funding is the fundamental problem for basketball

Dear Editor,

In the last 16 months, Guyana basketball has hosted the Caribbean Basketball Confederation Under 16 Championships for men and women. Our men finished as the second-best Under 16 team in the Caribbean, earning themselves a place in the Centro-basketball Under 17 championships 2017. Recent successes in basketball also included the National Under 15 men’s team competing in Centro-basketball 2016, the national senior men, with a majority of players under age 23, competing in a tri-nation tournament in Jamaica, and just recently the national Under 17 men despite tough circumstances, competing at the Centro basketball championship held in the Dominican Republic.

Despite all these notable efforts, for those who do not know, basketball does not get a single dollar from its international parent body.  Even if it did, that could not have sustained this level of activity which is necessary for the development of our players and the game over the long term.

I cannot speak for the NF officially, but from the little that I do know, the GABF, and particularly Nigel Hinds, its President, have been left severely indebted from these efforts. This is despite the support received from the Government of Guyana, the National Sports Commission and generous sponsorship towards the hosting of the Caribbean Basketball Confederation Championships 2017.

The fundamental problem with basketball, and sports in Guyana in general is funding. Accountable administration and adequate facilities are equally important issues as well. But the problem of funding has ensured a crippling effect to developing a sustainable progressive framework for the game to flourish.

The GABF, as admirable as their effort has been over the course of these 16 months, is simply being asked and expected to do too much on its own. It is like being asked to make bricks from straw ‒ an impossible task.

I told Nigel Hinds privately, which I will now say publicly, as admirable as his effort is, it is not right that he should carry this personal cost. It is just not sustainable. Nigel and I have had our differences, but the commitment and focus given to creating opportunities and providing exposure for youth players by his administration, is greatly appreciated, especially by those of us who are involved at the youth and school levels. A very important aspect of youth development has been answered by this federation ‒ exposure to international competition. So the President of the National Federation deserves a great deal of credit for this amount of heavy lifting. I do hope that some amount of his personal financial debt could be recovered even at this stage.

The most difficult part for me personally as a sports administrator in Guyana, is the conflict in answering the questions many of our young aspiring student athletes have: how can they get from where they are to the next level? Sometimes, I counsel myself that the best thing to do is to discourage these young people from pursuing what often turns out to be a dead-end street. But then I cannot do that either. How could you live peacefully knowing that you are a dream killer?  This then lends itself to the dilemma we find ourselves in: conflicted between a rock and hard place.

One wonders now in light of these circumstances, what else could sports administrators do to penetrate the short-sightedness that is restricting Guyana sports potential? In the just concluded Centro-basketball Under 17 championships, 16-year-old Kevon Wiggins led all scorers with an average of 25.2 points, quite remarkable, for the little lad from Berbice. Kevon, shortly after the 2016 CBC Championships, migrated to the United States where he attends the Evander Child’s Campus in Bronx, NY, and plays on the school’s basketball team. Kevon’s all-round skills set in just a year have improved considerably and he is the same talented and motivated youth that left Guyana a year ago, with the aspiration of pursuing his dream as a pro basketball player. The difference in the last year has to do with the environment. Kevon went into an environment that believed in his ability to succeed and gave hope to the idea that if he works hard enough he would gain a scholarship to go on to college in order to pursue his life-long dream. He is well on his way to doing exactly that, and the entire basketball fraternity is cheering him on.

But what about all the other boys and girls from Berbice to Kwakwani with those same aspirations? What about their dreams? What do we say to them? My hope is that basketball, and grass-roots sport in general would be viewed as a national collaboration between association, government, sponsors, community and participants all working toward one end: to create opportunities and to maximize the potential of Guyana’s youth. This is my prayer for sports in Guyana.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Bowman

YBG

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