“On examining the assumptions and prescriptions of the PP [Prybus philopsphy], there is compelling proof of it as a ‘call me back’ self-serving objective, mixed in with inaccurate explanations for our performance results. Also, it promotes a sleight-of-hand attempt to cover up the most damaging vandalism ever imposed on West Indies cricket—his role in the abolition of the West Indies High-Performance Centre.”
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles is the director of the CLR James Cricket Research Centre at The University of the West Indies.
The quote above is from a well-penned guest column written by Prof. Sir Hilary Beckles that appeared in Barbados TODAY on September 6, 2019. In the column, Beckles begins to outline the demise of the Sagicor West Indies Cricket High Performance Centre (HPC) and then also outlines the replacement philosophy that supplanted it.
I expected that the discussion about the HPC and what happened to it, would have gotten more public discourse. In thinking about why the article had not stirred discussion, I could only conclude that perhaps the general public did not weigh into the conversation because they did not know exactly what the High Performance Centre was and what was done there.
Prof. Beckles gave the view of the HPC from the philosophical positioning that drove it. I wish to expand on the discussion by offering a view of the HPC from the perspective of how the philosophy was converted into a daily activity for the talented young cricketers, some of whom Prof. named.
I was the curriculum specialist hired around 2012 to further streamline the HPC’s curriculum. The full-time engagement with the Centre came after I had written a series of research papers on education for high performance athletes and the establishment of a higher learning training model specifically for West Indian cricket talent.
The philosophy that drove the research and the models that I developed during my sojourn with the HPC were very much driven by the research which Prof. Beckles had done around the publishing of his two part volume, The Development of West Indies Cricket and the two undergraduate courses which he had created. I was very clear on the importance of the HPC and I had a passion for the work that I was doing.
The first thing that I ensured when we started working on the curriculum was that there was a longevity and sustainability model. There was a proposal that the HPC should focus on the areas of capacity building to facilitate the entire cricket enterprise in the Commonwealth Caribbean, that there should be collaboration with other high performance centres to organize cross training and tours that could ensure income generation, and that there needed to be a focus on product development and experimentation in collaboration with recognized names in sports equipment.
We started to work on the syllabus for the Cohort that was already in the High Performance Centre next. The course of study that the boys undertook was intended to be a post school leaving qualification. There were courses in High Performance Conditioning, the History of West Indies Cricket, The Physics of the Cricket Game, English for Communication and Financial management for the Elite Athlete to name a few. The boys also had electives such as etiquette and gender sensitization for the high performance athlete.
We also developed personal classes for those boys who had deficits in reading or writing ability to be able to bring each student up to an acceptable minimum post-secondary standard. This component of the course was especially important given what we know about the high incidences of boys becoming dropouts, especially those who leave secondary school education with deficits in their literacy ability. Cricket reflects the Caribbean society and thus it was important to ensure that the HPC was doing its bit to address societal needs and in that way, be an exemplar in the way that educational opportunities needed to evolve and change in these territories.
The boys who were moving their way through the paces of the new syllabus that was developed for the Centre, including Carlos Brathwaite, Shai Hope and Ronsford Beaton, were robbed of their opportunity to graduate with the certification they started to work on. The directive came from Richard Prybus to immediately close the programme in a way that I have never seen an educational programme close. The boys were not placed in other programmes or given any kind of document that credited the work they had started to do. It was heartbreaking the callousness with which that cohort was treated.
When I was notified of the decision to close the programme, I admit to having told the bigger heads at that time, Mr Cameron and Mr Prybus, that there was something distasteful and inappropriate about a white man coming to the West Indies and closing the only High Performance Centre we had in the entire region. I vehemently protested Prybus being the face and voice of the closure when where there were such centres almost next to every cricket set-up where he had come from.
There is something about a people who do not know history that makes them doomed to repeat it. The High Performance Centre was not perfect, but we lost nine good years and a solid start to the project because we again got blindsided. Nobody is coming to save the people of the Commonwealth Caribbean. We are all we need and we have the intellectual and organizational ability to fix our own challenges.
Mr Skerritt would become my hero with the singular action of reconvening the West Indies Cricket High Performance Centre as an academic programme for high performance cricket talent. Prof. Beckles has already synthesized the vision and provided a tangible and still relevant road map.
Marsha Hinds is the President of the National Organisation of Women.