Monday, April 22, 2024

MONDAY MAN: Top sports man of three districts

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As chairman of the Welches, Redman’s Village and Bagatelle Sports and Social Club, Owen Birch gets fully involved in the administration and organisation of sport in the three St Thomas districts.

His first love is cricket but he wants to use all sports not only to uplift communities, but to develop young people as well.

Describing himself as a jack of all trades, Birch runs the bar at the Bagatelle Community Centre, takes care of the pitch and playing field and also organises tournaments.

Born and raised in Redman’s Village, he has been involved in sport from the time he attended Welches Primary School. 

“When I went on to Coleridge & Parry I would have played there and at one point I was captain of the school (cricket) team,” he said. He also played football for CP.

Because of his love for sport, he joined the sports and social club of his area, which was known at the time as Welches Old Scholars’ Club.

“As a youngster I would come over here [and watch] the older stalwarts of the club – the likes of Joshua Applewhite, Victor Sandiford, Rickey Elcock and Dale Elcock,” Birch said.

“I would have seen them play for the club and I started playing for the club with some of them while I was still a schoolboy.”

He was invited to trials for the Under-19 and the senior Barbados teams, but never managed to play for the national team. He played, however, in a representative Under-23 side when the Barbados Cavaliers toured Canada and Bermuda.

He once played at the highest levels of local cricket but these days he captains Welches in the Barbados Cricket League’s (BCL) Super League competition.

Birch also coaches at the community level through the sports programme of Government’s Division of Youth Affairs. Overall, he has been involved in coaching for over 15 years.

One of the achievements he holds dear is that of vice-president of the BCL. This is because of the mandate of the BCL to cater and promote village cricket. Speaking on the reason the BCL was founded more than 70 years ago, Birch said the league was formed out of the need for the less fortunate in society at that time to get some form of recreation.

Benefits of sport

He believes the same holds true today. The 44-year-old said it was of utmost importance to keep cricket grounds in shape for games and to keep the club running so members could compete.

“Sport in itself brings people together. It builds relationships. It gives the youth a positive avenue where they can display their skills and that opportunity is always welcome,” he said.

Even though the club has cricket, football and netball teams, Birch said he tries as much as possible to encourage youngsters to play cricket. He has reaped some success in that Welches has some of the youngest players in the BCL competition, ranging from 14 to 25 years.

He said the discipline associated with cricket was good for young men.

“Cricket is a disciplined sport. Most of them love football, but it is more of a contact sport and there is the opportunity for tempers to flare if you feel you get a bad tackle (and you) may want to fight; but with cricket it is basically chatter between bowlers and batsman.”

As a result, continuing the St Thomas Cricket Tournament remains a priority for Birch, who has coordinated it since 2006.  

He expressed pleasure in the fact that a lot of young people continue to participate in the tourney, including a team from The Lester Vaughan School.

He noted that initially it was only for St Thomas residents or teams that represented St Thomas in the Barbados Cricket Association or BCL, but the rules were relaxed over time to allow each club to have two guest players.

This, he added, led to national Under-19 players from the various combined schools or youth teams participating. This year’s tournament had about 16 Under-19 players.

The only sore point for Birch is that the facilities at the Bagatelle centre, where the club is based, are in need of repair and upgrading. In addition, providing proper changing rooms for both men and women is a definite priority.

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