Commonwealth Athletics Scholarship and Values Exchange Trinidad and Tobago
When a group of Scottish youngsters travelled around the globe to compete at a venue named after a famous Caribbean sprinter, they certainly didn’t expect the track opposition to include Glasgow and Aberdeen. But that is exactly what happened at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, Trinidad, for 10 senior pupils from the Glasgow School of Sport over Easter 2013.
Many Trinidadians carry Scottish surnames to this day. And so the Glasgow School of Sport athletes, including George Goddard, found their names on the scoreboard alongside the likes of ‘McLaren’, ‘Glasgow’ and ‘Aberdeen’ at the Falcon Games - a huge open graded event in Trinidad.
Just a couple of the quirky memories from a once in a lifetime visit for the likes of Mahad Ahmed, Stacie Taylor, James Higgins and Joseph Amouzou where training on the beach at 6.30am was required to beat the heat and eating pieces and jam a necessity for one or two who shall remain nameless!
So how did it come about that 10 Scottish teenagers and coaches Norrie Hay, David Watson, guided by group leader Director Angie Porter head for Trinidad?
HPC Norrie Hay explains:
‘The trip came about initially through a Global Schools Exchange programme which involved Angie visiting Trinidad to establish a partnership. Now, the exchange receives support from Glasgow 2014 Legacy,’ he said. ‘There was an opportunity for schools to get involved in exchange visits. A number of Glasgow schools were involved and we picked up the thread on the sport aspect with others involved on a cultural and educational basis.
‘Our partnership is underpinned by the three values of the Commonwealth Games – Humanity, Equality and Destiny. We touched base on all three of those aspects while in Trinidad because it was so much more than a training camp. ‘It was an exchange with Glasgow School of Sport at Bellahouston Academy and two schools in Trinidad – Toco and Blanchiseusse Schools in the north-east corner of the island. We took 10 sports pupils over there who were all aged 16 or 17. In fact, we had two 17 birthdays while out there for Joseph and John Ball.
‘My initial reaction in terms of Trinidad had been that there would be no endurance athletes involved as there is no real heritage for that over there. But that wasn’t the case so we had quite a good range of disciplines in the group.
‘The original plan was we’d compete against some of our exchange partners but when we arrived we found we had been entered into the Falcon Games. There were good performances in the Hasely Crawford Stadium (named after the local hero who won the 100m title at the 1976 Olympics) from the likes of Ahmed, Taylor, Ball and Amouzou. But the competitive element to the trip was only one factor.
‘We were right on the beach where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean in the first week and training on the sand was great – impact-free – and it is amazing what you can do,’ added Norrie.
‘In the second week we were in Port of Spain. It was very warm – never less than 25 degrees, even in the middle of the night. We basically had to get up at 6.30am and train before 9am. We tried to train again around 4pm but the light disappears very quickly in the early evening. It was such a learning curve for our athletes. The food was different. If you go to training in Europe then normally there are buffet-style meals and you find something that you like and you can go back for more. It wasn’t quite like that in Trinidad.
It was quite basic and we’d some kids who were fussy eaters and struggled. We were very isolated in the first week with no shop nearby. So you have to make adjustments. Some of them had to live off pieces and jam or biscuits – not ideal.
‘A few of the Trinidadian kids were very talented. They are very keen on their sport and they are sprint-daft over there. I have never seen as many sprinters in my life. There were 20 heats in every age group for 100, 200 and 400 and sprint hurdles but it thins out after that.’
Being away from home as part of a group was part of the learning curve and Hay certainly hopes that some of the Glasgow School of Sport ‘graduates’ will feature in international competition in the future. ‘It is a fantastic experience – the athletes had a chance to go Trinidad and they might never get that again,’ added Norrie. ‘They had the chance to compete against Caribbean athletes and that might not happen again, either.
‘That life experience alone is worth it – training in a different environment twice a day and making the most of the facilities we had. If you are picked for Games or go on this kind of trip then things are not always the same as they are back home in Scotland.
‘We won’t have anyone at Glasgow 2014 who has been through the school, in track and field terms, but I do think we have two or three who might be fortunate enough to be involved with Scotland come the Gold Coast in 2018. It will take a lot of dedication, and a bit of luck, but who knows what can happen?
They might even remember their Trinidad trip as a crucial staging post on the pathway to success