Big 'BUCS' fuels intercollegiate sport in UK
...Valuable lessons for Jamaica and a model worth pursuing
Rashid Hall says his United Kingdom intercollegiate counterparts were just as ravenous for knowledge about Jamaica's sport as he was of studying their model of success.
The second vice-president of the Jamaica Intercollegiate Sports Association, who recently returned from an exchange programme in the UK, told the Jamaica Observer the Brits were curious about Jamaica's sport — amazed for the most part with the country's successes in athletics with its limited resources.
"People asked about volunteerism in sport, and track and field in particular. They asked about what changed why we started to increase our medal tally in track and field over a relatively short period of time. And, of course, you know that has a lot to do with our athletes staying at home, but more importantly, getting more support via medical, via better coaching, via better nutrition programmes, and focusing on a more nationalistic view," Hall shared.
Of his three weeks spent traipsing across the UK, gathering and sharing information of intercollegiate sport, he seemed most impressed with the operational mammoth which is the British Universities and Colleges Sports Association (BUCS) and Loughborough University, a monument of tertiary sport.
"I went to Loughborough University, which the top university for sports in the UK... they have a number of centres of excellence on the campus and they work with most of the national associations for sports. They are focused specifically on cricket, because the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) has their academy there and the England 'A' team and the women's team are based there full-time.
"I went to see how their academy operates and I spent about four hours with their performance analysis manager, and he (Dr Guy Jackson) explained the various operations there -- the process involving the creation, implementation and maintenance of the England and Wales Cricket Board High Performance Centre," Hall said in Glasgow recently, where he stayed back after his fact-finding tour to assist with administering the Jamaican team to the Commonwealth Games.
A point that stuck with him is how the British government remains a big benefactor for sporting development and sporting excellence across the empire.
"And one of the big points coming out of that is how the Government is using the university as a hub in developing sports... the Government has put forward a plan for associations to base their development through UK Sports, which is similar to our SDF (Sports Developmewnt Foundation) which is funded by the lottery," Hall said.
At Loughborough University, the facilities are not on-site at the disposal of student athletes only, but available to the various sporting associations, including the mighty ECB to use for a fee.
"There is a cost to everything, everyday, those costs are passed on to whoever is using the facility, and I think that we have to take that kind of a approach. I know that our economy is totally different, but I think we can start somewhere and we can start small," Hall expressed.
He said one memner of BUCS, the University of Birmingham, is spending £55 million to develop an indoor facility, and intrinsic to the project is revenue-generation and profit projections.
"I spent one week in office with them (BUCS) basically trying to understand their structures, policies and how they operate. And the second week we did a conference where the University of Birmingham is spending £55 million to build an indoor facility for sports, and that presenter went through how they are going get the profits (right off the bat)," said, Hall who co-ordinates marketing and events at the Sports Department of the University of the West Indies, Mona.
He said that BUCS, with 35 full-time staff and 100 universities under its umbrella, is a model of technology and worthy to be copied by any sporting body wishing to reach the highest level of efficiency.
"We learnt about certain software that BUCS was using to run their university... and it's something we could look at as it does not come at a huge cost, I understand," Hall noted.
But building contacts with his counterparts across the Atlantic, Hall said will be key in the sharing of information and knowledge as Jamaica's intercollegiate sport reaches for the stars.
"What is important is the exchange and to keep in touch and hopefully having more people going over there and having them come to Jamaica.
"It's all about starting that relationship across the water at certain levels, and what we want to do is open the door for more interaction and more communication," Hall concluded.