By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
MINGOES Athletic Director Kimberley Rolle is confident that with an additional $1.5 million allocated in the Bahamas government’s 2020/21 budget to the University of the Bahamas, they could continue to become a viable tertiary institution for Bahamian student athletes to attend.
In putting in place the necessary protocols for the return of sporting activities on their campus on University Drive, Rolle said they are in the first of their four-phase plan to get back to normalcy.
“Our athletic trainers have team training going on at home right now,” said Rolle, referring to certified trainers Sasha Ferguson-Johnson and Shakeitha Henfield. “We commenced that on June 1 with all of the teams. Each team has a trainer assigned to them to get them ready.
“We will stay in that stage until we can receive students back on our campus. When we get back to school, we will move into phase three. I can’t say when that date is because the university is getting its cue from the government.”
With the use of virtual training, Rolle said they are focusing on getting their student athletes in tip-top shape after being locked down for the past three months since the country was shut down in March as a result of COVID-19.
“We want to avoid the risk of injuries to our athletes, so we’re using the next couple of weeks in this phase to get our athletes developing their strength and conditioning right now,” she said.
“As we move into other phases, their muscles will be developed so that they can be ready for the upcoming season whenever we get to that phase of normalcy with school reopening.”
And with the United States of America going through a state of social unrest with protests and racism surfacing after the death of George Floyd, Rolle said they expect that there will be an influx of student athletes deciding to use UB as a viable option for their tertiary education.
“The reality is that a lot of the US schools have indicated that their international numbers are down as a result of the uncertainty of COVID-19,” Rolle said. “So I don’t think it’s just the Bahamas that would be affected.
“I think a lot of countries will see their numbers shrink as it relates to student athletes travelling abroad. I know the numbers in reference to the persons who are applying to our admissions office speaks for itself.”
In the aftermath of COVID-19, Rolle said there is expected to be a decline in the number of student athletes who are expected to travel to the US for the upcoming school year. So if the numbers increase, she said they are hoping that there will be some student athletes in the mix. “As we expect an influx into the university, we expect that there will be an increase in the interest of our student athletes for our programme,” she said.
“Over the last few years, I think UB’s athletic programme spoke for itself. We have turned out some good athletes and our teams have performed very well. In sports, you can do a lot of talking, but you have to deliver. We want to deliver a programme that persons can say ‘I could see myself being a part of that’”.
At present, the Mingoes have about 90 student athletes involved in about nine disciplines in men’s basketball, men’s soccer, men and women’s track and field, cross country, judo, golf, women’s volleyball and women’s softball. Through these disciplines, Rolle said they are trying to recruit the best athletes available in the Bahamas.
“We want to ensure that our coaches, athletes and parents see that the university is making progress each year and it’s producing student athletes who are excelling,” Rolle said.
“At the end of the day, there are only a handful of student athletes who will become pro athletes, but there are much more who will become better professionals in the field of their studies. So high on our agenda is that our student athletes graduate and they move into the professional areas they have studied.”
This is Rolle’s 12th year since accepting the job on December 1, 2008 as athletic director. She returned home from Miami University of Ohio where she got her MSc in 2007 after graduating from Henderson State as one of their top Lady Reddie women’s basketball players in 1995.
So far, the married mother of two boys, Deuce and Derrius, admitted that it has been a rewarding experience. “You’re never satisfied. You can ask Duke University if they are satisfied and they will say, ‘there’s always a great deal of work ahead of you’”, reflected Rolle, whose husband Bacchus, a former versatile basketball/baseball player, serves as the head coach for the men’s basketball team.
“But we’re so much further along than where we were 10 years ago. We couldn’t get student athletes to seriously look at our programme 10 years ago. But we’re now seriously competing for our top-tier athletes to stay here at home and compete for UB.”
Last year, Rolle said they employed their first full-time coach in Ednal Rolle, who has attracted some talented student athletes to the programme.
“When I look at how our athletic programme has transpired over the years with two full-time athletic trainers, who are among the best that we have to offer in the country with masters degrees, I feel like we’re in good hands,” Rolle said.
Ferguson-Johnson, a former versatile basketball player, is now in her fifth year and Henfield is an Olympic 400 metre runner who is in her second year. They are being charged with formulating a programme to get their protocol in place for the return of their student athletes to their campus.
“We’ve had a physical fitness trainer in place for the past five years. I believe that Sasha has done a yeoman’s job before she was joined by Shakeitha,” Rolle said. “They are busy taking the athletes through their home-based training with their strength and conditioning.
“They are also writing out the protocols that we will put in place for our student athletes when they return to the campus. They have been very instrumental in getting our programme up and running again. I like to tease them that they are more than just ice and bags, but the job that they do is tremendous and they do it without complaining.”
With all these things in place, Rolle said UB is well on its way to becoming an affiliate of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), an organisation that caters to the small schools in the United States.
“COVID-19 has put a monkey wrench in our plans. A lot of what we are doing now is watching the US in particular, how they deal with their sports and how they manage social distancing and protocol as it relates to the participation of sports,” Rolle said.
“There are still one or two things that the university has to do before we can make the application to the NAIA. We know there will be some new challenges as it relates to COVID-19, but we want to still make that application once we get back to normalcy and let the chips fall where they may.”
Rolle, however, said with the programme that they have made over the years, especially competing against NAI teams, they have been able to hold their own, so she’s confident that they will be received with open arms.