THE UPS AND DOWNS OF ST THOMAS CRICKET
Association reports mixed fortunes; rues crippling lack of corporate supportSunday, May 09, 2021
BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
THE coronavirus pandemic, like a vexed storm, has ravaged life as we know it.
No facet of human existence has been spared its wrath; sport included.
After a year floundering due to the State-imposed restrictive measures as a response to rising COVID-19 numbers, sport is slowly returning to Jamaica with Government's cautious blessings.
But before the virus tsunami many sporting organisations, and their athletes, were building dreams in the pursuit of glory.
By all indications, plans to fuel those dreams, for some, remain viable.
In the case of the St Thomas Cricket Association, the past year has been a torrid time at the crease, but those at bat have managed to steady the administrative innings even as the competitive side has long been given out.
“Technically there is not much we can do without resources necessary to support the players. However, we have encouraged the players to obey the COVID protocols and stay safe. We continue to communicate [with players] via Zoom,” President Dennis Gordon said.
Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, several programmes were in the pipeline for delivery.
“We were set to finalise relocation of the facility, have medical and psychological evaluation of all players, have more intense physical and mental preparedness to provide the players the best opportunity to perform consistently at a high level and [with] nutritional support,” Gordon revealed.
He admitted, however, that administering the game in the eastern parish — before and during COVID — has been challenging to say the least, but believes that all-round support by dedicated stakeholders and imaginative thinking have kept the ship sailing.
Gordon, however, lamented the limited or lack of meaningful support, which is believed to have hindered the process of talent development and the implementation of other relevant programmes.
“There is no doubt that talent exists in the parish. However, without resources we cannot implement programmes to mobilise grass roots participation. The economic reality of the parish, and by extension the board, placed us in bad financial shape,” Gordon told the Jamaica Observer.
The St Thomas CA boss, who has been at the helm for six years, says the governing Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) needs to play a greater role in development outreach for clubs and parishes, and in the case of his association, the practice of individuals financing his organisation out of their pockets is not sustainable in the medium to long term.
“The JCA needs to fund the development at the grass roots level, [as] clubs and parishes are no longer able to undertake that level of expectation or responsibility. Failing significant policy adjustment, cricket at the parish level will die.
“The anonymous contributors of the past are disappearing and those who are still around are aged with other interests due to their economic realities. Simply put, they cannot afford to subsidise the game anymore,” noted Gordon.
The businessman, who serves as chairman and co-owner of Jacden Enterprises, notes that growth of the game at school level also suffers from inadequate financial support, which is symptomatic of the general attitude towards the parish's cricket.
“Considering the schools are equally financially challenged, the question of available infrastructure and costs to participate have become unsustainable. Cricket is simply not their priority. Most importantly, it is ISSA that manages sport in the schools and not the remit of the local boards,” stated Gordon.
Gordon, who was born and raised in St Thomas, said gone are the days when the game enjoyed robust support of local businesses.
“That level of partnership has disappeared since my time as a player. It is a constant struggle [now] to subsidise the game considering the economic realities. I have carried the cost of participation exclusively during my presidency. Sadly, I am not prepared to continue. St Thomas will have a new president in the year 2022 and hopefully, the new president can improve where I left,” he said.
“Subsidising the game is now unsustainable. Plus, it is extremely challenging to continue that tradition.
“The JCA provides a laughable part funding of a maximum $200,000 per season to participate in the all-island Senior Cup competition. No funding for Junior or Minor Cup despite similar costs to participate in those competitions,” added Gordon.
The vice-president of the Racers Track Club movement embraces the position that while marketing the sport is the job of the JCA, his association continues to find ways to promote the sport and engage local interests.
“That [promoting sport] is the remit of the JCA, which is armed with a marketing department. Notwithstanding, we continue to reach out to business interests and friends for support,” Gordon stated.
He said while the business community has been largely unresponsive to the call of St Thomas cricket, the wider community has been the beacon of support from the cheering stands and in other unpublicised forms.
“I am a proud son of the parish, hence my commitment to support the parish and the cricket community. I have invested a pretty penny over time to provide hope and inspiration to the youths and wider population.
“The cricketing community support is unquestionable. They follow the team around and become really depressed and agitated whenever the team struggles; they also contribute in other ways unknown to most,” Gordon shared.
Even without limited, broad-based corporate backing, the parish's Senior Cup team has performed creditably over the years, coming close to the title on a few occasions. Lifting the crown is an ambition that continues to burn within the organisation.
“We are about eight on the scale of success, with 10 being the highest considering our strategic objectives. Not winning the Senior Cup undermined our grade, although we were able to get players into the national and international teams. The welfare of players remains a major challenge,” Gordon said.
“We have done well, and we have rated consistently in the top four best teams in the country during my tenure – graduating from a team that shows up short for scheduled fixtures in the past – and that is commendable,” he added.
Even as St Thomas has established itself as a producer and exporter of cricketing talent, equally, it has pulled big-name talent to the greens of Goodyear Oval, the base of the parish's cricketing operations.
“Players migrate to Kingston largely for jobs and those who are not good enough to make the team. The reverse is true as players are begging to be a part of the system, as the shared experience is novel and fulfilling.
“Importantly, it [playing for St Thomas] provides a conducive opportunity to transition to the national teams. What we have is a structure, culture and supporting mechanism.
“Players such as Carlton Baugh Jr, Paul Palmer Sr, Bryan Murphy, Devon Thomas, Tamar Lambert, Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Sanjay Brown, Jamie Trenchfield, Jowayne Robinson, Denver Pasley, Omar Brooks, Kashane Roberts, Gavon Brown, Keno Wallace, Christie Jones, Gavin Tonge among others, all with international and national exposure, certainly lifted the profile of the parish and position it as one of the premier teams locally,” Gordon said.
Looking back, the native of Danvers Pen thinks his tenure was “impactful”, but prefers to leave final judgement to the local cricket constituency.
“I would say that I have made a positive contribution, considering the challenges during my tenure. But I will allow the public to judge,” said the outspoken PNP councillor for the Maxfield Park Division.
In terms of his successes, Gordon named rebuilding and expanding the Oval pavilion; establishing a proper practice facility; securing the property [fencing the Oval]; completing the resurfacing of the field; consistently placing in the top four best teams in the country; having members of the club recruited for national and international teams; hiring top-level coaches; securing scholarship support for players; celebrating past players and administrators, and providing incentives to players.
He lists as disappointments the failure to win the Senior Cup; lack of support from the local business community; lack of leadership and support from the JCA; and players' lack of appreciation for the investment and sacrifice by the local board.
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