“A friendly, warm atmosphere and island party vibes”

12 Jul. 2019

“A friendly, warm atmosphere and island party vibes”

The inaugural North American and the Caribbean (NAC) Beach Handball Championship threw-off yesterday (11 July) and just before it started caught up with a very busy Rhonda Clarke, Secretary General of the Trinidad and Tobago Team Handball Association. 

She discusses how the preparations for the competition have been, what everyone will experience at the showpiece event in the island nation and her hopes for the future of the sport in the region. How proud are you as Trinidad and Tobago (TTO) to host the first-ever North American and the Caribbean (NAC) Beach Handball Championship?

Rhonda Clarke: We are extremely proud to have been given this wonderful opportunity to host such a high-calibre event. You are welcoming eight different nations to TTO, plus referees and officials from other countries. What can the players, officials and fans expect from your country and people?

Rhonda Clarke: They can expect a wide variety of food, friendly warm atmosphere and island party vibes. Trinbagonians (someone who is from, or lives on, TTO) love to party and have a good time so the atmosphere will be very warm and relaxing, not to mention entertaining. 

We are excited to embrace the foreign cultures. All games will be played at the Chaguanas Sand Court Facility. Tell us about the venue – why was it chosen and where is it located?

Rhonda Clarke: Chaguanas is where our national team trains and is located in the centre of the island. Our beaches are on the outskirts of Trinidad and due to the dynamics of the country it’s very difficult to reach them, hence the choice of Chaguanas. How have the preparations been for the tournament?

Rhonda Clarke: We were confirmed as hosts back in November 2018 and from then I decided to take up the mantle to spearhead and plan operations. As with any event it has come with many challenges, but I believe through commitment and having some wonderful committee members we have been able to pull it off well. What support have you received?

We have received non-financial support from our Ministry of Sport and also the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee. The Trinidad and Tobago Team Handball Association is a non-profit organisation, so we do a lot of fundraising to assist our athletes. We are hoping that with this event the Government will see the work we are doing and step in to begin assisting us. 

The IHF has also been tremendously sincere with their support in all areas and we are thankful to them too as well as the volunteers who are mainly from our national university, as well as from the University of the West Indies. Alongside your role as Secretary General for the Trinidad and Tobago Team Handball Association, you are also planning and managing this event as well as being the team manager for both the men’s and women’s Trinidad and Tobago teams. You must have been very busy?

Rhonda Clarke: I am so busy that sometimes I forget to rest. Yes, I manage both the male and female teams as well as managing almost every aspect of handball in our country under the supervision of our President (Roger Salandy). 

While it has offered many challenges, it has been very rewarding, I just hope the teams pool together to send me on a vacation after this (wink wink). The competition offers a qualification pathway to both the 2019 ANOC World Beach Games and the 2020 IHF Men’s and Women’s Beach Handball World Championships, what chances do the Trinidad and Tobago teams have on home sand to qualify through to these or get a medal?

Rhonda Clarke: The chances are just the same as the other countries. We have trained hard, worked well with little staff and resources, and we strongly believe that both our teams will be victorious in this tournament. We have followed the journey of the Trinidad and Tobago beach handball teams on over the past few years. Is there anyone you want to particularly thank for helping you to be in the current position you are in?

Rhonda Clarke: Yes indeed. I want to say a special thank-you to our head coach (Kenwin Goden). He is a certified coach for football and physical activity, but self-trained for handball. 

He is tremendous, hardworking, skilful and elite in his thinking, and has brought our teams so far along – he is truly our hero. What are your hopes for this competition in terms of promoting beach handball in the North American and the Caribbean (NAC) region?

Rhonda Clarke: We are hoping that Trinidad and Tobago will become the premier Caribbean nation with the highest level of handball that can be used as the standard for other upcoming islands in our territory.