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The need to invest in the next generation of West Indies cricketers was high on the agenda as the third annual West Indies Cricket Board Sandals Foundation Under 15 High Performance Camp got underway in St Lucia and Antigua today.
The West Indies Cricket Board Chief Executive Officer Michael Muirhead delivered brief remarks at the Antigua leg of the launch ceremony which was held at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds where the camp is based.
“You, the young cricketers of today are here to learn your trade and improve your skills and knowledge so that you can emerge as the stars of tomorrow. You are the Chris Gayles, Sunil Narines, Shivnarine Chanderpauls, Sheldon Cotterells of the future,” Mr. Muirhead said while addressing the players at the Opening Ceremony.
A simultaneous opening ceremony was also held in St Lucia at the Beausejour Cricket Ground. The four teams at the St Lucia leg are Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia and Windward Islands.
The four teams in Antigua are the hosts, Guyana, Leeward Islands and Trinidad and Tobago. The camps will run for seven days and conclude on August 27th.
The players represent the Under 15 national teams which participated in the recently concluded WICB Regional Under 15 Tournament in Jamaica which was won by Trinidad and Tobago.
The WICB CEO raised his bat to the sponsors – Sandals Foundation – along with the governments of St Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda.
“I wish to place on record our gratitude and thanks to the Sandals Foundation for their support and for the work that they have been doing here in Antigua and across the Caribbean in developing young sports men and women,” Muirhead said.
Public Relations Manager of Sandals Foundation, Anne Harewood-George said the camp has expanded tremendously over the years thanks to close relations with the Ministries of Sports in Antigua and Barbuda and St Lucia and the WICB.
Sandals Foundation provides kits, meals and refreshments while the WICB provides air transportation and coaching personnel and the local governments provide venue, accommodation and ground transportation in the multi-stakeholder partnership model.
“You are extremely privileged. We are investing time and energies and resources in you (the young cricketers) because we believe that you can succeed and excel – not just athletically but academically,” Harewood-George said.
She emphasized that the program not only focuses on developing skills in the game but also places considerable efforts on molding young men deserving of the ‘gentleman’s’ game.
Manager of Sandals Grande Antigua Resort, Rocco Santopiepro said, “These young men not only have the chance to make long life friendships, they also have the exposure to world class coaching and while we see the importance of training their bodies, we are also training their minds and that we are also have life skills workshops on topics such as died, nutrition and even etiquette.”
The program has since 2010, received endorsements from cricketing legends Richie Richardson, Kenneth Benjamin, Winston Benjamin, Andy Roberts, Ridley Jacobs and Curtly Ambrose, all having recognized that the young cricketers of tomorrow are the ones who will shape the future of West Indies Cricket.
Gregory Shillingford, President of the Leeward Islands Cricket Association (LICA) believes the High Performance Camp benefits Antigua and St. Lucia in two folds – one through the individual teams and the other through the individual jurisdictions being representatives (Leeward Islands and Windward Islands), both of which gain invaluable experience and exposure in the renowned sport.
“We are particularly pleased by the opportunities presented by Sandals Foundation and the WICB both in Antigua and St. Lucia so that the Leewards and Windwards have two teams (the territorial teams along with the host team) who are exposed to this high level coaching,” Shillingford said.
He expressed the hope that the participants, would walk away from it with enhanced knowledge and understanding of the sport and the commitment that would see them advance to the levels leading up to the West Indies cricket team.
The LICA President encouraged the players to build friendships and partnerships from this level and develop a bond that could not only assist in their personal lives but their professional carriers – with the sport being what anchors them together.
The WICB was represented in St Lucia by Director Julian Charles who is also President of the St Lucia National Cricket Association and Director of the Windward Islands Cricket Board of Control.
Dwain Gill of Grenada is the Head Coach in Antigua while Junie Mitcham of St Kitts has taken charge in St Lucia. Both Head Coaches has a team of regional Under 15 and local coaches as support staff.