The 'core' sports of The Bahamas

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July 12, 2012

On July 10, 1973, when the Union Jack was lowered and the country's national flag raised for the first time, Bahamians everywhere stood in pride. Today, that same joy is felt through the accomplishments of our athletes competing on the local, regional and international stages.
It is that sense of national pride that pushes our athletes forward and keeps the fire burning in the hearts of the executives of the various sporting federations who work extremely hard to make the dream possible.
A wide range of sports are played in The Bahamas but only 10 are referred to as the core sports in the country, and a handful come under the Bahamas Olympic Committee. Here's what the various federation heads had to say about the development of their respective disciplines.
Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA)
President Mike Sands
The success of the association over the years is directly attributed to the outstanding performances of the athletes. The BAAA is an organization that creates opportunities for athletes to participate in various meets internationally and regionally.
"We also have taken a very special interest and care in certifying our coaches through courses. We encourage and support them in taking advantage of the courses that are available through the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as well as USA Track and Field," said Sands.
 These programs allow participants to improve their skills. "Over the years we have seen a growth in the number of coaches who are certified at the top level. The association has provided them with opportunities to become knowledgeable about the sport and through that extent, we have seen outstanding performances from our athletes. We have taken great pride in making that one of our priorities."
There have been some challenges as the association tries to reach new heights and improve, but nonetheless improvements on all levels have been achieved.
"The association has recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, [during] which we have highlighted numerous athletes and persons who have contributed to the programs. There is no doubt that we have grown and that the history of the organization is rich. Our founders have fought hard and the athletes have capitalized on the accomplishments from those before them. The association has become the victim of our success to an extent because the ability to fund the teams is challenging. But through the support of corporate Bahamas, the government and other sponsors we were able to provide athletes with the many opportunities. There are a number of initiatives we would like to improve upon and we are now viewing our strategic plan to determine how we will do so," according to Sands.
As far as accomplishments, there have been many.
"We can go far back as Thomas Robinson and others who were the first to make a mark on the international scene. The torch has been passed on and we thank persons like Thomas Robinson for their contributions," he said.
"Our success is notable. Athletes have excelled on all levels. The BAAA does not count medals but looks at the personal achievements of our athletes. That is key. Over the years, we have collected a lot of medals, but seen so many improvements from our athletes. That is our driving force, our motivation."
Bahamas Swimming Federation (BSF)
President Algernon Cargill
"Our focus is ensuring that we can develop a comprehensive National Learn to Swim program and provide an opportunity for every young Bahamian to swim. Those with potential will be identified so they can move onto more competitive swimming. We've noticed that there are too many Bahamians who cannot swim, and given the geography of The Bahamas that is really not a very good thing," said Cargill.
BSF wants to have continuous growth and development in the sport.
"The progress and success of our age group is measured by our success at CARIFTA. From 2003 to date, we have placed in the top three at those games. In 2006, we came within seven points of winning CARIFTA. So we see a lot of progress in swimming, especially at the CARIFTA level, in terms of growth," said Cargill.
The federation was represented at the Olympic Games and the FINA World Championships. At the last Olympic Games, The Bahamas had four swimmers, two females for the first time. In 2004, The Bahamas had the first female swimmer qualify for the Olympic Games, Nikia Deveaux. In the last Olympic Games, 2008, both Alanna Dillette and Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace qualified. This summer, Vanderpool-Wallace will be the lone swimmer. But she has already won a world medal. The Bahamas has never before made it to the finals of the World Championships. To win a medal speaks to the success of the program.
"The success of our female relay team in placing at such a high level, globally, speaks to the potential of swimming in The Bahamas. We need more Olympic swimmers, and create more scholarships for swimmers. For some reason swimming doesn't receive the same profile in the eyes of college recruiters as track and field does. But we want to see more Bahamians on athletic scholarships to colleges abroad," said Cargill.
"The BSF wants to open more doors for our swimmers. We have had tremendous growth and the increase is phenomenal. Our swimmers have so much potential. And as a result we are looking beyond the CARIFTA Games and are now looking to win other competitions like CCAN. We want to develop aquatic sports like water polo and synchronized swimming. Diving is also on our list. There was a female's water polo team that just stopped and now the male team is in the developmental stages. But we haven't done anything in diving and synchronized swimming. We haven't explored the open water swimming as much. There were a few open water meets but we need to develop it more so we can compete at the regional and international levels," he added.
"Since we were founded we have expanded in terms of facilities, but we still need more pools. We have one 50 meter pool that is heavily used. There should be a pool in the east, west and south of New Providence. There were the addition of more swim clubs in New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands and we look to improve on this as well in the coming years."
Bahamas Football Association (BFA)
President Anton Sealey
"Over the years we have competed on every level. We have competed in senior men, women, under-23 boys and girls, under-19, under-17 and in the under-15 divisions. We have seen tremendous growth, certainly in terms of numbers and the participants in the various groups. We have had an increase on the junior side, which has assisted with the growth in the league. There have been some peaks and valleys when it comes to the senior league. We had a women's league established years ago and for various reasons that league stopped. But over the last two years, under the leadership of Daria Adderley, we started to rekindle the women's league and we are going to be putting on some tournaments in the next year or so. In Grand Bahama, they've always maintained a vibrant women's program and a competitive women's league. That is a flip to their men's league, which has not been participating over the last three years," said Sealey.
"I am not as satisfied with the level of growth but I have always maintained and believe that growth has to be managed and that we have managed our growth. Because it is an amateur sport, you rely on volunteers, for the most part, to do these things. Because of the growth at the youth level, a lot of the volunteers are spending their time at that level. Therefore, we don't have the quality and the number of volunteers for the senior level that will really commit you to see any meaningful growth. But, because of the amount of juniors we have coming through, we need to do something to address that senior level football. That is the challenge that the federation faces right now."
Sealy and his team took the helm in 1996 but the association was founded long before. Prior to 1996, the emphasis was always on senior soccer.
"During the years 1973 to about 1996, we had a very vibrant senior men's league here in Nassau and to a lesser extent in Freeport. But the level of play was very high and competitive. We had a heavy influence of foreign nationals participating in the league because we had foreign teachers and croupiers at that time. So these people made up the football teams that played here. At that time we had a very good senior program but nothing was happening on the junior level," explained Sealey. "In 1996, when the current administration came into office, we recognized this and our first plan in action was to develop a youth development program which would be the feeder system to the senior league. So there was a renaissance of the game when the league took a decline in the number of teams participating and that is when we embarked on the youth development program. That had a tremendous affect. Now we have competitive games, a good crowd and are performing favorably in international competitions."
Bahamas Softball Federation (BSF)
President Burkette Dorsette
The federation has transformed over the last 40 years, according to Dorsette.
"One time we were at our pinnacle in softball when we finished third in the world in the men's and ladies'. We had a lull in that progression sometime around the 1990s and early 2000s but we are gradually getting back there. The last time the men competed in the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games we finished fourth. So we are heading back there and want to improve on our placing. We have teams who are now working out for a couple of very important tournaments," said Dorsette.
The Pan American Games and the World Qualifiers are high on the schedule. Those matches will be played in September of this year. When it comes to the juniors, the International Softball Federation (ISF) has stepped up its programs and the BSF wants to feed off that.
"We had sent a novice team off to the under-16 tournament last year. They didn't fair too well but we expected that because that was their first international trip. Since then a good junior program has been developed, which we hope the teams in New Providence can piggy back off [of]," he said.
The federation also assists the associations with the development of their programs.
"We have stepped up our game, in terms of our development, and would like to supply more to our associations, whether it is equipment or technical support. The technical aspect will come in our game officiating and we would be taking full advantage of the ongoing umpires clinics," said Dorsette.
The BSF has just received word from the ISF regarding international certification courses for umpires. There are about six internationally certified umpires now and the BSF wants to add to that.
"Over the years we have seen a decline in the administrations of some of our associations. There are plans to host some administrative courses," he shared.
Two new associations have joined the federation.
"Inagua is in full swing and we have just received application from Spanish Wells. I recently returned from Cat Island and they have expressed interest and are preparing a field for softball play on that island. So softball is picking up in the country whether it is fast pitch, modified pitch or slow pitch. There have been a lot of improvements since the founding day. We've hosted numerous tournaments and added various associations under our umbrella," said Dorsette.
"The progression over the last 40 years has been tremendous. We will continue to pursue avenues on where and how we can improve the game. These improvements will also be seen on the adminstration, technical and upkeep of facilities. The future is very bright and we want to continue to grow by leaps and bounds. We have some young talented players who are great prospects and that is always an encouragement."
Bahamas Volleyball Federation (BVF)
Acting President Joseph Smith
The changes in the game have affected the BVF in a positive light, said its acting president Joseph Smith.
"There has been an increase in all of our programs, from the junior to the senior development side. The game has changed drastically and The Bahamas has been improving from then. We have competed on high levels. There were teams who represented The Bahamas at many qualifiers in the past and we are back on track with playing in these qualifiers. At one time, The Bahamas was number one on the women's side and on the men, we were ranked number two in the English-speaking Caribbean," he noted.
"When the changes to the rules of the game were first introduced we had a little lull, but as time progressed our players caught on. The federation was able to bridge that gap around 2000. That is also the year when we revamped our program, adding more of our junior players to the senior teams. The older teams had seen success and we wanted to infiltrate the juniors into this program so when our more senior players bowed out, the juniors would fill in.
"The executives made sure that our coaches and officials were up to international standards. That has trickled down to our players who are now coaches themselves. So overall, you would have seen a quicker game with a defensive player."
The list of players who have gone on to college on a volleyball scholarship is "very long".
"We still have some in the pipe line. Not only was the past a strong one, and the foundation sound, but the future looks bright. We have climbed our way back up the ranking ladder," said Smith. "Some of the older players have returned to assist the teams, departing some of the knowledge they know on the younger guys."
Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF)
President Charles 'Softly' Robins
The Bahamas Basketball Association was the governing body back in the day and the sport grew under Mr. Vince Ferguson. I watched it grow from then to now, and I have seen basketball come a long, long way. Many people might say that the sport is not growing, but it is definitely growing. There was a time that it seemed like we had better players, but we didn't have better players. What happened was there were a lot of players on one team. Players either joined the Kentucky Colonel, Fox Hill Mangoes or the Cougars. Those teams were so good because they had the numbers. So everyone enjoyed basketball back then. The actual game, comparing to now, was much better because we played more basic basketball and the players back then were fundamentally sound. But the game itself has grown, it is quicker and flashier.
Bahamians enjoyed the game and it showed every time the players stepped on the court. It was a joy to see players like Quant Sterling, who was ranked number one at one point in the Caribbean, play. He along with many others gave you a show that was worth every dollar spent. Nowadays, we have players who can make it into the NBA, who have even played at the high level, but their commitment wasn't like how it was in the past. They were a committed group of players who were willing to learn the game. There was a point when wearing the flag on your chest meant a lot. They took pride in the game and it showed in their dominant performance. Some people will say the players today can not compete with those in the past, but I believe that they can.
There is much more competition now. But we still were able to produce professional players who have played in the NBA. We also had a lot of other ball players who tried out for the professional rank. Now I see a lot of potential and we can surpass the numbers that we had in the past. I don't think the sport is in a decline. Not all of our professional players are in the NBA, they are playing in other leagues as well. We are coming back. This crew of ball players now, they are really good. So in the coming years, we should be able to produce at least three or four basketball players.
Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association (BLTA)
President Derron Donaldson
Over the years we have built on the accomplishments of some of our more notable players like Mark Knowles, Roger Smith and Kim Cartwright. Their, along with many others', achievements on the local and international stages have paved the way for players like Nikkita Fountain, Larikah Russell, Kerrie Cartwright, Devin Mullings, Marvin Rolle and others. We are now seeing a resurgence in the sport and the main reason for that is because we created a feeder system. More juniors are now coming forth and are playing at a very high level. They are getting opportunities many persons in the past did not get. A number of our players are ranked.
At the recently held Davis Cup, we changed the look of the team and sent the young players. We wanted to give them an opportunity. This year was our 24th appearance at the tournament. From since we started playing in the Davis Cup, in 1989, we've played in about 66 ties. We have never made it to the World Group but I think we can get there. We did make it into the World Group play-offs, that was back in 1993.  So you can see our tennis players have the potential.
Locally, we have hosted several international and regional tournaments. Bahamians have competed in these tournaments, and done extremely well. All of this is a part of our growth. There are a lot of changes we are going to make in the upcoming months. The changes that were made in the past we have built and improve on them. We competed in the Olympics. That was a major accomplishment and we want to get back there. We know that we will need to get our players in tournaments where they can earn more points. This opens the doors for them.
Bahamas Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (BBFF)
President Danny Sumner
The BBFF started off with Hubert Wong, Cyril Smith, Edison Deleveaux and Dr. Norman Gay.
"They were the principal people who got the ball rolling and organized the association. Wong was the first president. That was the year they got a commitment from the International Federation for Bodybuilding's (IFB) president Ben Weider for The Bahamas to be added to the international list.
"We were the third member of the IFB that year. As we moved forward a lot of Bahamians became interested. Dr. Gay was president and was working extremely hard to promote the sport. One of the more notable athletes in the first era was Kingsley Poitier," recalled Sumner. "He was the most prolific. Kingsley Poitier won Mr. World. That was the highest award you could have won in bodybuilding at that time. Other persons who were outstanding on the international level were Glen Wells. He competed in Mr. Universe. There was Tony Carroll, Edison Deleveaux and Aurthur Eldon, who was around a long time. Those names were like the pioneer names who competed internationally. They sparked the fire for bodybuilders on the local scene. We had a lot of top bodybuilders going all the way back to Jeremy Knowles, Della Thomas, Joel Stubbs, Raymond Tucker and so on. We've had success at the Centeral American and Caribbean Games and next month, August, we will be heading back there," said Sumner.
He said the numbers have decreased over the years but the federation is finding ways to spark interest.
"We went into the schools and the new segments have attracted more females," shared Sumner. "So, yes, we've grown but we have also had our fair share of ups and downs. We are now working on ways to bring more people in."
Bahamas Baseball Federation (BBF)
President Craig Kemp
"I think we're the youngest federation formed," said Kemp.
In the past BBF was governed by the Bahamas Baseball Association and about 10 years ago the federation was formed.
"Our focus is making the athletes better and ensuring that baseball is played in the country. We have grown tremendously from the day of inception."
The BBF's most notable tournament is the nationals, named after Andre Rodgers, one of the country's most outstanding players who went on to play in the major leagues in the U.S.
"Our nationals have grown from 12 teams to about 44 or 46 teams now.  We never had an accurate count of teams that were playing back then or the number of players that were professional players. Looking back at history, we can tell you that we did have professional players and they have excelled. That has paved the way for so many of our younger players who are looking to move into the professional ranks. Antoan Richardson is just one of our professional players," said Kemp.
Over the past 10 years the federation has assisted players with obtaining scholarships to attend college, universities and high schools in the United States.
"That is something we are very proud of," Kemp boasted. "Many of these players came up through the leagues under the umbrella. Our junior league is very strong. Yes, we had a decline in the sport but it has nothing to do with the fact that we don't have any stadium. We had a void for about two decades where there was very little organized baseball being played."

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News date : 07/12/2012    Category : Sports, Nassau Guardian Stories

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