Ronald Smith

Ronald Smith

Turn back the hands of time to the early to mid 1990s. Basketball in Dominica is at its peak, the electronic scoreboard is still in its introductory phase, the wooden stands surrounding the Windsor Park hard courts are full of spectators on a nightly basis, and teams such as Hoyas, Clouds and Harks (now Blazers) are introducing a new brand of excitement to local basketball that is finally challenging the invincibility of the mighty Cardinals.

Sad to say that of all the sporting disciplines, it appears that basketball is the biggest casualty of the Windsor Park transformation. Since that time, it has been a painful recovery process for the sport that was once the nightly entertainment for many Dominicans.

In his address to mark the opening of the 2013 season, the president of the Dominica Amateur Basketball Association (DABA) Mickey Joseph, conceded that basketball is the third rated sport in Dominica. Without the direct financial backing of the world governing body that local football enjoys, or the international appeal of cricket, it is understandable that basketball in Dominica has plunged into near oblivion.

In observance of forty-five years of organizing basketball in the country, in early April the DABA’s “Basketball Classic” competition was held. The mini-tournament, which featured past national players, brought many nostalgic moments of the glory days. In addition, basketball fans were reminded of the invaluable contributions of the few basketball faithful who have worked tirelessly over the years to keep the sport alive. With no paid executive members, basketball is floundering, hanging by a thread thanks to the dedication of a handful of hard working executive members and the small but appreciative crowds who gather at Lindo Park on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.

With Lindo Park in its current state, as the main ground, it is difficult to imagine how basketball can continue to attract the interest of the young boys and girls who we depend on, to pass on the torch to future generations. Although, occasionally, evidence of resurging enthusiasm is displayed by the Lindo Park crowds, the DABA Executive is not yet ready to declare that basketball is back to the Windsor Park glory days, as they are cognizant of the many challenges that confront the sport today.

Like many other sporting disciplines on island, the involvement of the private sector is limited to a handful of corporate entities. At the beginning of the season twenty-six teams were registered to compete in the three men’s divisions and five were expected for the women’s division. However, a recent news release stated that half of the registered teams face the possibility of suspension for defaulting on their registration fee obligations.  Furthermore, the association can only depend on two hard courts for hosting games on a regular basis. The unavailability of officials and organizers for games in the out districts is also proving to be a major constraint for the league.

In spite of the challenge that the local league is proving to be for the DABA, the executive is relentlessly pursuing ways to bring the playing facilities up to an acceptable standard. Through the Dominica Olympic Committee, the DABA is seeking assistance from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), in order to upgrade playing facilities in St. Joseph, Soufriere and Grandbay. In addition, the long time dream of an indoor facility is still being pursued.  According to the DABA president, his association is awaiting a response from government after submitting a proposal to transform Lindo Park into, at least, a sheltered facility.

There is no doubt that improved playing facilities will in some way motivate young aspiring basketballers. However, in today’s global village, it will take more than infrastructural improvements to captivate the present sports generation, and attract  the private commercial sector into a more proactive social responsibility stance. Our junior and senior national teams should be exposed to more regular regional tournaments than the sole annual Sugar Creole Basketball Competition. We also need to re-establish the scholarship opportunities that were once a regular feature of basketball development in Dominica. Improvements will also come if we recognize the position that sports should hold in the hierarchy of national priorities and the incremental social and economic contribution that can be generated through effective sports administration. A collaborative effort among all basketball stakeholders to complement the efforts of the DABA is needed to help us recapture the excitement of the 90’s and bring basketball back to the top of the rankings where it belongs.