Suruj Ragoonath has urged parents to give talented young sportsmen, particularly cricketers, the opportunity to benefit financially from their talent while still young. But the chief executive officer of the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) also told parents to ensure that their children become properly groomed and well-rounded individuals.
Ragoonath made a stirring feature address yesterday at the Cascadia Hotel, St Anns, where a function was held to honour the Secondary Schools Cricket League (SSCL) team which won the International Secondary Schools T20 competition in Lucknow, India, in January. The team won the 18-team tournament, winning all five matches they played.
Outstanding members of the side included top wicket-taker Justin Joseph, vice-captain Nicholas Pooran and Jesse Bootan. Yesterday, several members of the team were presented with awards.
Present at the function were SSCL officials, Ministry of Education representative Marjorie Thomas, PowerGen treasury and risk manager Nigel Edwards, parents and members of the team.
Ragoonath, a former national and West Indies opening batsman himself, said opportunities available to young cricketers now were not available in his time and that talented players can now make cricket a career and also pursue academics.
"Nobody would have thought that leagues like the IPL (Indian Premier League), Big Bash (Australia) and the upcoming Caribbean Premier League would give cricketers these types of employment opportunities," Ragoonath said. "These young men will only be teenagers once in life. Their youthfulness will be gone in a few years and so will sporting opportunities."
Ragoonath felt that parents no longer had to decide if their children should choose sport or academics as a career path. He said that in a modern world, academic achievement can be gained at anytime in one's life. He further added that financial independence gained through sport can fund later academic growth. He used as an example, Trinidad and Tobago cricketer and school teacher Samuel Badree.
"The money that he (Badree) would have made in the few weeks of the T20 World Cup would be more than he made in 10 years of teaching and possibly until his retirement," Ragoonath said. "I am in my40s now and I am now about to complete a masters in sport management and a masters in business management. That would not happen years ago."
Ragoonath said the role of the parents of sportsmen is to groom them to be good persons, or else their children will embarrass them with their behavior whether on the international scene or not.
"Stop carrying their bags like you are their caddies," he declared. "Let them carry their own bags. Let them press their own clothes for school. It is not going to kill them."
Yesterday, Secondary Schools Cricket League president Sookoo Sonnylal spoke of the trials faced by the team, including having to sleep in the airport when stranded for three days in Dubai. Sonnylal said that T&T are now looking forward to defending the title next year.
"We are eagerly awaiting that date," Sonnylal said, while adding that the experiences in India will stay with the young cricketers for the rest of their lives.
"Uneasy is the person who wears the crown," stated Marjorie Thomas of the Ministry of Education. "Now that you are on top, everyone will be gunning for you."
Edwards also felt the young cricketers were an inspiration to young persons and she hoped their victory was just one of many to come.
"We are very proud of them. They were victorious and are beacons of hope," Edwards said.