Barbados’ performance on the international sporting arena cannot be solely left up to the athletes, but everyone, whether government or administrators, all need to play a part if the country is to garner success, says former two-time Olympian Seibert Straughn.
An outstanding 400m runner who represented Barbados at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, Straughn said he was extremely proud to see two of his former Christ Church Foundation School (CCFS) athletes represent Barbados at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
National 400m hurdler Tia-Adana Belle and swimmer Alex Sobers are products of the Church Hill-based institution. Sobers, a 400m freestyle swimmer, attended Deighton Griffith Secondary School but later transferred to CCFS in fifth form and Straughn spoke highly of him.
“He was disciplined in school and Deighton Griffith must be given credit in terms of his personal development. He went on to college, got his bachelor’s degree and his master’s, so those things make me feel good. Not just for him being an outstanding student but also a person who has gone on to improve himself in the academic world to get himself rounded.
“I am very happy. To reach the Olympics is no small feat, we would want him to win medals but sometimes these things also are not going to occur. But one of the things is that once an Olympian is always an Olympian and there is a very small percentage of our population who made the Olympics. So, he will go down as part of some of the greatest athletes our country has ever produced and he is certainly one of them,” Straughn said.
On the other hand, Tia-Adana Belle has been part of the CCFS family from day one as a first former and represented the school at the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletics Championship (BSSAC). Ironically, Belle did not start her track and field career in hurdles but rather the high jump and long jump.
According to Straughn, coach Michael Linton played a role in Belle’s early development with the hurdles.
“I am pleased to see how she has developed, matured, and is a nice young lady who has come a long way. She has gone on to college and gotten her degree and is putting herself now as a professional athlete,” Straughn stated.
Belle was also part of the St. Michael School having transferred and Straughn recalled in 2013 there was no BSSAC because the National Stadium track was unavailable. He jokingly recalled how that denied Belle an opportunity to oppose her Foundation alma mater that year. The only time Belle got a chance to compete for St. Michael School was at Kensington Oval during the relay fair.
Over the years Foundation can boast of being one of the schools in Barbados known for producing Olympians.
One of the first, Cheryl Blackman, represented Barbados in 1984 at the Los Angeles Games in the women’s 400m hurdles. There are also legendary Wilan Louis, Barry Forde, Alvin Haynes, Allan Ince, Hamil Grimes, Andrew Burke to name a few.
Straughn believes that it is important for schools to employ the right people to be part of their sporting programs.
“It is important for schools to employ the correct people into their setup so the students would look up to you. I am not saying because you are an Olympian means you are the person who can do that but it can give you that little advantage.
“For example, Gabriel Burnett who is now the coach of the Barbados track team in Japan. I was fortunate enough when I was the Olympic coach back in 2004, so it is all about developing a program in terms of roundedness in your school program,” he said.
For schools in Barbados to produce top athletes and reap a greater level of success, Straughn asserted that everyone must play a part, from the principal, management to the ancillary staff.
At Foundation, Straughn, Denis Blackman, the Lights and Knights CCFS Old Scholar Group and many others work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the school stands out both academically and in the sporting realm.
“I have always said it is not only the coaches that help develop the product but it is all about leadership in the school. I think I have been blessed where I would have started with the late Major Barker who would have been my first principal while teaching at the school.
“Then there was Edward Cumberbatch who I think would have left a lasting legacy and his track record at CCFS will be extremely high along with Major Baker. But he (Cumberbatch) was a person where a lot of things happened under his leadership over the duration of his days as a principal.
“Now we have David McCarthy who is the acting principal and Dr Albert Bartlett (acting deputy principal) who is thinking that same kind of way in terms of what we want to develop as the student-athlete. We just don’t want anybody that is going to be just strong academically but we want to be able to produce student-athletes who can move on to the next level in terms of getting an athletic scholarship and go on to represent Barbados at the highest level. There were other deputy principals such as Mr Sheldon Perkins, Cynthia Reid, Dr Yvette Mayers and Peter Cox who also paved the way,” Straughn stressed.
He added: “It is a family environment and all of us are working towards the goal not only in track and field but in various sports in Barbados. We have won the National Sports Council award for four consecutive years and one of the things we have practised over the years is that we have specialist coaches for all of our disciplines. I think that has made a big difference.
“I would advise all the schools out there and all the schools may not improve in all the sporting disciplines, but if they can get that type of help, it would make Barbados better and to me, that is most important.”