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Sunday 14th August 2011
Sen. Hon. Winston Williams Jr.
Minister of State: Sports, Local Government & Special Projects
Opening Ceremony
Sandals Foundation, WICB, Ministry of Sports
U15 Cricket Academy
Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium
Saturday August 13, 2011
10:00 a.m.
I extend a very warm welcome to all our visiting student athletes and coaches from abroad to our beautiful twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. Join with me and acknowledge our delegates from Anguilla, Barbados, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts/Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda. At the risk of sounding a bit boastful, we believe that our country's natural beauty and people's warm hospitality together equal paradise. I have been reliably informed that your very busy schedule will be interspersed with some sightseeing tours. Our beautiful beaches are not optional, they are mandatory. Please make the best of the opportunities provided to you so that your wonderful memories will cause you to return to our shores sooner rather than later. 
Young men, it is not accidental that you have been invited to reside here at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium. This facility is named after our only living hero, Sir Vivian Richards, the Master Blaster, and Cricketing Sensation of the World. You placement here is part of the programme design to remind you, over these next two weeks of how the game of cricket can not only transform one's life, but also attract the attention of an entire country, a region and the world at large, well beyond one's active career in the game. 
The impact of West Indian cricketers, including our very own legions such as Sir Vivian Richards, Richie Richardson, Andy Roberts, Curtly Ambrose, Kenneth Benjamin, Winston Benjamin, Ridley Jacobs and others has drilled deep and produced wide-spread ripples in the international cricketing fraternity.  According to our own home grown experts, when Antiguan and Barbudan cricket thrived, West Indian cricket also thrived. We savoured the sweet taste of victory, we wallowed in the delights of success and then,
as if it was too good to be true, reality hit and hit hard indeed. It seemed as if we began taking things for granted while we basked in our mountain top experience. We lost our first love, the love of the game and took on a new love, the love of fame. For a while we wandered in a state of shock and disbelief and then in true West Indian style, we began to pontificate, point fingers and poking in the dark for the magic pill. We were numb but now the numbness is fast being replaced by a need to act quickly, a need to keep hope alive while we find the fountain of runs, wickets and wins. But it seems that we have a lesson to learn and our need for survival requires we learn quickly. 
Young men, you have come at such a time as this to learn with those of us who are a little older, this lesson of life: 'You only get out of life what you put in'.  Grace may smile upon us for a while, but the absence of growth soon reveals the ugly reality of the absence of grace. 
We all have to face the reality that in today's fiercely competitive world that it can no longer be business as usual. I accept and support the call by a number of our national sports pundits for CARICOM Governments to seriously consider a coordinated approach to cricket development with a strong emphasis on the school and community programmes. I call upon our CARICOM Governments is to get out of the governance and administration of cricket and instead focus on investing in the development of the game. I accept that it will require a master plan where each of our countries with a vested interest in the livelihood of the game commits to carrying our various responsibilities to the best of our abilities. We must all make a concerted effort to convert lip service into a long term investment which has reasonable expectations. Overnight fixes, instant gratification and super cricketers from the woodwork are components of the imagination which we must bury six feet underground. Wishes, whims and notions will not bring back the glories of the past. 
Instead, sitting at the feet of experience to be inspired, invigorated and energized should be a repeat prescription for our cricket weary souls, our loss laden hearts and bruised egos. Dedicated, focused and all year round training from our children beginning in their formative years will develop the culture and the way of life for the game which will not depart from them when they are older. Admittedly, many have said that there is little interest in the game; but there is hope. The WICB Digicel Grassroots programme is proving this thinking to be wrong. From all reports, the boys in the programme are delighted to be a part of it and have expressed extreme disappointment when their age group training is over. From all reports, the Sandals Foundation programme in St. Lucia has reached a decade and has not failed to attract young hopefuls who have continued in the game. The inaugural event in 2010 in Antigua and Barbuda brought kudos from all involved. 
Please understand that it is not essential for every single child to play cricket, but it is essential for every child playing cricket to play the best cricket that he or she can play. This comes only through practice. Practice under the guidance of the best coaches. Practice with the use of adequate equipment and gear. Practice in well maintained facilities. Practice with a positive attitude. These are some of the elements I am pleased to share which are part of this the Sandals Foundation Cricket Academy. Last year was great. This year is bigger and better. Last year saw 26 boys from the national programme participating in the two week residency initiative. This year, the academy boasts an enrollment of 57 boys from seven countries. I applaud the efforts of the Sandals Foundation, the Sandals Properties and the West Indies Cricket Board. We at the Ministry of Sports are pleased to be part of this triune partnership. An investment in our young men in the technical aspects of cricket as well as in personal development training will reap many rewards well into the future. 
Our come back as a region to the winners circle in cricket may not be soon, but if we as key partners collaborate and cooperate, plan and implement collectively with common goals and put our money where our mouth is, our success will be sure. I believe that we are slowly, but surely getting on the right path with programmes like this one which is being launched today. But admittedly, more must be done. 
It is for this reason that I will shortly be establishing the Minister of Sports Action Council on Cricket. Addressing mechanisms for financing the Equipping, Training and Competing aspects of the game will probably be the main challenge for this entity. It will not be for the fainthearted. But neither a fatalistic attitude nor failure is an option at a time like this. We must move onwards and upwards. 
I must also applaud the efforts of the team behind this initiative from the Office of the Minister of State: Sports as well as the Office of the Prime Minister and Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium. Mrs. Eloise Sheppard and staff from the Ministry Headquarters Mr. Austin Richards, Lenroy Roberts and trainees, Coaches Ridley Jacobs, Derrol Thomas, Wilden Cornwall, Francis Mark, Alphonso Jarvis, Ancillary personnel including Althea Baron-Browne, Mr. Francis Esprit and there colleagues, Mr. Samuel Spencer, Mr. Cassim Greene, Mr. Stanfield Shipwreck Joseph, Mr. Derrick Ramsey, Anne Jonas as well as Mr. Merrick and his team from the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium are all to be applauded for their hard work to date. Without you all, our end of the bargain would not have been kept. Thank you all.  To all those experts who will join me in one of the evenings in the personal development interactive seminars, thank you in advance: Mr. Hugh Gore, Mr. Kenneth Benjamin, Mr. Rexford James, Mr. Clancy Mack, Mr. Richie Richardson, Mr. Imran Khan and the Sandals representative. Thank you all so much for volunteering your time to share your God-given talents. 
Young men, make full use of the training opportunity over the next two weeks. Make friends, work hard, play well and strive for excellence in your game and your attitude. Let it not be said that you threw away a wonderful opportunity. This is experience should be treasured and your innate talents should be revealed through the application of lessons learned over the next two weeks. It will not be the end but hopefully it will be the beginning of a bright future for you in cricket. Make us proud. Make your countries proud. 

It is my distinct pleasure towish you all the very best and to officially declare the Sandals Foundation, WICB, Ministry of Sports Under 15 Cricket Academy Open.

Thank you all.  

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