Scott: Bermuda athletes need reality check
Wayne Scott is not entirely convinced that sending Bermuda’s athletes to the Olympic Games is the best use of the Island’s limited resources.
The Sports Minister also suggested it might be time for Bermuda athletes and their national governing bodies to be more realistic about the competitions in which they compete.
Unlike some of his predecessors, Scott is speaking from a position of authority when it comes to participating in international events. The minister, a cyclist, represented Bermuda from 1999 to 2007 and was, at one stage, ranked first in the United States in his division.
He said that competing in events such as the Olympics and Pan Am Games “just because I could” never crossed his mind.
“It never even occurred to me to do the Olympics, and Pan Am Games because I wasn’t there [competitive]. I wasn’t at that level and I personally didn’t want to do something just because I could,” he said. “Riding and training at a high level, I understood the different levels, and that [competing] was just something that wasn’t realistic.
“My personal opinion is that I would rather send ten athletes to smaller competitions where they can get the experience, than to spend the same amount of money to send one athlete to an Olympics, as an example, that we’re not going to be competitive in as a country.”
Bermuda’s performances on the world stage has been thrown into the spotlight by a disappointing display at last year’s Central American and Caribbean Games in Mexico. The failings in Mexico brought an outburst of frustration from Donna Watson, the chef de mission, and accusations from certain areas that there was a lack of financial support for sport in Bermuda.
Scott understands the frustrations, but is not convinced by the money argument, pointing to the $20?million that Government provided for his ministry last year. In fact, the minister believes that Bermuda could achieve more success with half the money if the Island’s disparate group of clubs, associations, schools and governing bodies worked together to achieve success.
“Bermuda hasn’t done a good job as a country historically of developing its athletes. Keeping that in mind, and understanding we are an Island of 60,000 people, our athletes have done extraordinarily well, in spite of that lack of unity,” he said.
“You look at Caribbean countries that perform well, it’s not because they have millions of people, it’s because they have determined plans from elementary school with structured sports and activities.”
Scott is not saying that Bermuda and its athletes should not aspire to be competitive at a high level, but that competing in a heat at a major games might not be the best definition of success. Setting realistic, achievable goals in the short-term could be a better approach.
“We need to set a bar that is achievable but relevant. If that means it limits the amount of athletes that can represent the country today, so be it,” Scott said.
“If we do that and simultaneously align our efforts in schools, clubs, and create clearly defined paths I think our future bodes well.
“We have phenomenal athletes on the Island for an overall structure that is not aligned, and an overall country that doesn’t truly support its athletes, and that’s a huge plus.
“Imagine what would happen if we set that bar and aligned our efforts [to meet it]. It would be a very short period of time where we would be consistently achieving on the international stage.”
Scott would like to look at the setbacks of the past year as an opportunity to get things back on track, even if his approach is unlikely to be popular with the Island’s athletes and officials.
However, he stands by his assertion that going to big events “just because we have the ability to do so” is something that needs to be discussed in an open and honest fashion.
“I understand the frustration, not only as a former athlete, but I now have responsibility for this and I get it,” he said.
“I see this as an opportunity as a country to achieve some incredible things. Look at the success we’ve had in spite of all these things.
“Let’s start to look at what that realistic criteria is, and let’s set pathways to get there. Now, does that mean today that we may have to forego one or two of these things if we’re serious about it, quite possibly, yes.
“But, for me, it would be much more advantageous to go and look at regional events up and down the East Coast where I could go and do ten of them, instead of getting on that one squad that’s going to Australia to do this big event, just because we have the ability to do so.”
Ultimately, Scott can only offer his opinion about what the money his Ministry provides is spent on, and although he, like many, loves to see the Bermuda flag being flown at major events, he still cannot say if it is the best use of the Island’s resources.
“That’s not for me to answer,” he said. “That’s up to the Olympic Association.”