Serrette: I did it for the athletes – Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Former NAAA boss Ephraim Serrette -
Former NAAA boss Ephraim Serrette –

FORMER president of the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) Ephraim Serrette, who resigned on Tuesday, said seeing athletes earn scholarships and attaining a university education was one of the areas that drove him during his 13-year tenure at the helm of the local track and field organisation.

In his letter to the general secretary of the association, Dexter Voisin, Serrette said the demands of a recent job appointment precluded his continuation in office. The formal announcement did not come as a surprise as Serrette signalled his intention to his fellow board members over two weeks ago.

Serrette was on the NAAA’s board for over 15 years, 13 of which he served as president. Under his leadership, the association made significant strides and has often been recognised as the best local sporting organisation. While he was at the helm, the organisation developed a new constitution, underwent a rebranding exercise and became incorporated resulting in a more businesslike approach to the administration of athletics in the country.

Serrette, a former TT sprinter who ran alongside the likes of Hasely Crawford, said all decisions were made in an effort to benefit athletes. He told Newsday on Friday, “I was doing all of this for the athletes, because I always say if it was not for track and field I am not sure where I would have ended up and track and field is what has given me all that I have in life today.”

He added, “I say that because I also try to explain to people: not everybody will hit the podium, but the sport gives the opportunity for people to get an education and also gives them a better quality of life…Those were some of the key things that were driving me to do this.”

Serrette said he has no regrets, but was hopeful changes in the association could have materialised more quickly. One of the changes Serrette would have implemented under the new constitution was that a president could only serve two four-year terms. Serrette only served one term after the new constitution was formed in 2016.

TT track and field athletes had some memorable performances under the NAAA, led by Serrette. The 2012 London Olympics was this country’s most successful showing at an Olympics as this country earned four medals – one gold, one silver and two bronze. The gold medal was won by Keshorn Walcott in javelin – the second Olympic gold medal won by TT. Crawford won this country’s first gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in the men’s 100m event. In 2018, TT earned a third gold medal. The TT men’s 4x100m team of Richard Thompson, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender, Keston Bledman and Aaron Armstrong initially earned silver at the 2008 Olympics, but Jamaican Nesta Carter tested positive for a banned substance and Jamaica’s gold medal was taken away.

Serrette said the performance of the TT athletes helped the administration garner sponsorship. “When the athletes do well it gives us the opportunity when we promoting the association and looking for assistance. Those are the things we could look at…it had some good performances which afforded me the opportunity to use that to sell (our product) to sponsors, because one of my biggest goals was to become self sustained, to be less dependent on Government which I think I would have achieved to a certain extent.” The National Gas Company, Republic Bank and Sagicor were some of the major sponsors that have supported the NAAA under Serrette.

Serette said NAAA always aimed to be accountable and transparent to build trust with sponsors.

The term of the president and all directors on the current board was due to expire in November, 2020 but owing to the challenges of the covid19 pandemic, the membership approved a one-year extension for all directors. As a consequence, NAAA’s first vice-president George Comissiong will assume the duties of president until the next annual general meeting, which is due in November. Comissiong is no stranger to the sport, having served as director and vice-president for over 20 years.