The Department of Sports has the mammoth task of promoting sports in the Cayman Islands and it is doing a fine job under trying financial circumstances.
It provides technical assistance and expertise in six focus sports – netball, cricket, swimming, basketball, athletics and football.
This is carried out through community programmes, after-school programmes, school sessions, national programmes and sports camps.
The department maintains more than 20 different sports and recreational facilities and ensures that the fields and facilities are kept in a state of readiness and safety for public use.
It also provides guidance on sport policy matters and monitors the development of sports in the Cayman Islands.
All of this is managed by a small team of administrative staff, which according to Department of Sports Women’s Coordinator Merta Day, is responsible for the smooth running of the department.
The team is comprised of four women – finance administrator Dania Gall-Bennett, accounts officer Vanda Powery, clerical officer-receptionist Adrianna Christian and maintenance-cleaning Annmarie Martin.
The four have been selected to be recognised as part of Honouring Women Month in a series of behind the scenes articles that highlight their roles in the department and ways in which sport has shaped their lives.
“Women naturally have abilities that should be embraced and not hidden away,” Day said.
“We need to recognise our women, and Honouring Women Month is one way that this objective can be achieved.”
Director of the Department of Sports Collin Anglin agrees that the four women play an integral part in the delivery of services to the public, which is vital to the success of the department.
He said: “These women perform their duties to the highest standards and without them the department could not perform its ultimate purpose. They are greatly appreciated.”
Day noted that the women’s roles go far beyond their job descriptions. “There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that the public is unaware of, but these women help to make things happen,” she said.
“There is not enough praise that we can heap on them. They are fantastic and each one brings something different to the table, because they all love sport.”
Gall-Bennett very ably assists the Director of Sports with the day-to-day running of the department’s administrative office and also supervises all admin staff.
Powery handles all data input for the department’s finance within the accounts section and assist in other areas as required.
Christian is the first point of contact, or the face of department. She handles the switchboard and all booking of facilities and also lends support to a variety of admin duties. Martin cleans the facilities and goes the extra mile at all times.
Vanda Powery is an accounts officer as well as a part-time throwing coach in the Department of Sports.
A former athlete, she understands the mind of an athlete, especially the hard work and discipline ethic needed to be a champ.
Powery has earned an impressive list of credentials in sport. She was the first medallist for throwing discipline for the Cayman Islands at CARIFTA in 1988, when her 28.82 metre throw earned her the silver medal for discus.
A few months later at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Games she won bronze in discus with 31.90 metres.
She said: “I was ecstatic over winning that bronze. I set a personal record that day. The distance I threw would have given me a gold medal at CARIFTA. I was really overjoyed with the results.
“It was tough winning the silver medal at CARIFTA, but it was a worthy prize for all the hard work put into training early mornings, afternoon and evenings.”
Powery represented the Cayman Islands from 1983-91 at a host of meets including the Caribbean Union of Teachers Track and Field Championships in 1986, Barbados and meets all over the Caribbean.
She can clearly remember her first CARIFTA in 1988 meet. “I was so very nervous and not sure of what to expect. It’s very difficult because you don’t want to make mistakes. I always tried to make the first throw my best to ensure I made the finals.”
Powery knows the importance of sport in the development of boys and girls. “Sport helps to mold a person, instilling discipline and good behaviour,” she said.
“It keeps young people engaged in constructive activities and encourages them to focus on academic achievements, time management, career development and setting realistic short and long-term goals. They learn the value of being health conscious and this can stay with them for a life time.”
She mainly coaches youngsters at the primary and high school levels. “We have not always had coaches for the throwing events, which has hindered the growth of the programme. I feel it limited my exposure and progress also.
“Periodically I’m approached by high school student-athletes and asked questions about my throwing career. I encourage them to study hard and be consistent with good grades as I was unable to use a great opportunity of a full academic scholarship to Rice University.
“I have used that experience to encourage all young people to always pursue excellence in every way possible and not settle for mediocrity. They are encouraged and full of laughter as we share our experiences and talk about their future goals,” she said.
“When CARIFTA was held here in 1995, I was team manager and coached the throwers for the games. Our local athlete Elroy Bryan medalled. In 1997, 2005 and 2006, I was also CARIFTA team manager and assisted in coaching the throwers.
Like most local athletes, her journey began at primary school and coaches Jerry Harper and Evelyn Rockett helped to hone her skills during middle school years, focusing on throwing the discus, shot put and javelin. Powery was drafted into netball as was the case for most girls of her generation.
“Track and field just flows in my blood. It is a natural thing for me, a passion,” Powery said.
“I have always been physically active, as it was the norm growing up. I remember the first time I threw a discus. It was awkward but I loved it. It was the same for shot put and the javelin.”
Powery said she learnt about Honouring Women Month while employed at the Women’s Resource Centre.
“I feel it serves a great opportunity to acknowledge women in our country in many different facets.
“It’s a small token of appreciation that each person in our community can give back to the girls or women in their lives. I truly enjoy being personally involved in Honouring Women Month and giving my time. Thanks, to Tammy Ebanks and the others who initiated it and work hard to keep it going.
“I’ve been in sports for a long time and now to be honoured during this month makes it even more special in an almost emotional way.
“Honouring Women Month has enabled women in sports and events to find a place where they can communicate with each other, and years ago that was not available.”
Annmarie Martin is a strong, determined and capable woman who knows what it takes to compete and to produce top athletes.
After all, being part of the maintenance team at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex for the past 12 years, she has witnessed on a daily basis the dedication and discipline it takes to excel. Plus, she does her small part in helping the young people she interacts with to stay on course.
Martin is one of the women who the Department of Sports Women’s Coordinator Merta Day is highlighting for Honouring Women Month.
“Through recognition programmes such as this, we hope to call attention to Caymanian women and those who work in the Sports Department who are helping to lead the way for women of all ages. The public has no idea how much pride she puts
into her work,” Day said.
“I am so pleased that Ms. Day selected me as one of the women,” Martin said.
“It is nice to have your efforts acknowledged. She sees how we women work and how we are always working to improve the area that we work in, and for that I am truly grateful.”
Her job at the Cayman Islands Sports Department is to clean all the facilities around the Truman Bodden Sports Complex –from the Lions Pool to the netball court, and everything in between. She takes pride in seeing that her work is done and done well.
“I want the sports complex to be clean when people come here,” Martin said.
What’s more, Martin enjoys being around the complex. She draws inspiration from watching young people compete, whether in ordinary competitions or on a national level.
“I like the excitement of watching the competition and seeing an athlete’s determination in reaching the finish line,” she said.
She also keeps connected with sport by walking and swimming as part of her fitness regimen.
“I wish I could go back and take up the opportunity. These children here are so fortunate to have sports clubs and for the government to provide these programmes. It is truly amazing.
“I’ve helped a lot of children and try to keep them out of trouble. I see some of the children now who have good jobs and they are grateful for the help or advice I offered along the way.”
Adrianna Christian who won a model competition for the Caribbean region in 2010 was awarded the title of the new face of Shebeau Magazine and also plays an important role in the daily operations of the Cayman Islands Sports Department.
She began her career at the department as a clerical officer-receptionist in 2008, right after high school and has enjoyed it ever since.
Christian was active in sports while in school and became even more passionate after joining flag football recently.
In fact, during her first year she was part of the national women’s squad that travelled to Bahamas for an invitational tournament. They won every game played and were the overall champions.
“This was a great accomplishment,” Christian said. “Joining flag football allowed me to show another side that a lot of people didn’t know I had and I am grateful for yet another sport outlet.”
Christian, 24, may not look like the typical woman athlete, given her modelling credentials. But she models whenever the opportunity presents itself. But she knows the health benefits of being involved in sports.
“Sports is fun and it allows me to be active and fit, plus it has helped to instil a competitive spirit, which, over time has helped me to become more confident.
“I may come across as a girly-girl because of my interest in fashion shows and pageants, but I am also a tough cookie. My younger sister is very much active in sports and was apart of the national football team and currently still apart of the national Rugby team. I also have four older brothers and a younger one which I’m very close with them all so I had no choice but to be tough.”
Speaking of her latest recognition, Christian said: “I am grateful that we are being recognised by the department. Honouring Women’s Month is a great way to highlight women who are making a difference.”
Working as the Department of Sports administrator for the past 11 years, Dania Gall-Bennett has witnessed the many benefits of sports.
This and that fact that she genuinely enjoys sports and supporting our athletes are some of the reasons why she volunteers to help sporting organisations.
“I enjoy watching various sports such as track and field, basketball and football, so I decided to give back by volunteering my time outside my duties at work,” Gall-Bennett said.
Gall-Bennett started assisting the Cayman Islands Athletic Association in 1996 and is still actively involved with the organisation.
She has worked in many capacities, such as general assistant, secretary, and chaperone and officiating.
In the past she was also volunteered of the Cayman Islands Football Association and also supports the Department of Sports programs and by lending moral support to her niece Shenel Gall, Cayman’s top female footballer.
She assists during the Inter-Primary School and Inter-Secondary School track and field meets, among several other sporting commitments and worked the Call Room at the 2010 CARIFTA Games hosted in Cayman. She has also travelled in the past as chaperone with the Women of Valor Basketball Club.
Her generosity as a volunteer helped her to land the job at the Department of Sports. “I felt that with 15 years of financial sector and human resource experience both locally and internationally, plus volunteering with three of the five focus sports, I could assist the department in a meaningful way, while also assisting with organising sporting events,” Gall-Bennett said.
“I truly enjoy my job. There is never a grey day.”
But why sport? “Sport is important to the development of children as they learn and understand the importance of teamwork and coordination. They also get exposure to different culture, people and situations.
“Children who are active in sport get physical exercise and normally reap health benefits such as a decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.”
Gall-Bennett works out at the gym three to five times weekly and also walks and at times cycles. During the summer time she enjoys a recreational exercise programme which includes netball skills and fun games through the Department programmes organised by Sports Coordinator for Women.
She is pleased that the Department of Sport has highlighted her during Honouring Women Month. “HWM is a great way to keep the history of women alive in the Cayman Islands,” she said.
“It’s important to celebrate women in sports for their hard work and dedication and all that we have contributed.
“To receive an honour from the same people who have been part of my extended family, is just tremendous.”