‘Let’s see how good you are Sir’ seems to be what Draughts Champion Ronald ‘Suki’ King’ is thinking??as he challenges Minister of Sports, Stephen Lashley, to a game as Director of Youth, Cleviston Hunte, looks on. (A. Miller/BGIS)

Barbados’ draughts champion, Ronald "Suki" King, will soon begin teaching a number of young people from eight communities across the island the rudiments of that sport and they will then compete in an upcoming tournament.

Minister of Sports, Stephen Lashley, made this disclosure today during the launch of the HIV and AIDS Block Draughts Project, which will be facilitated by Mr. King, the Ladies’ Champion, Wilma Branch, and the Youth Commissioners and HIV and AIDS Educators of the Youth Development Programme, in the Division of Youth.

Mr. Lashley explained that the new initiative had two phases, the first would start tomorrow, Thursday, October 25, when training sessions for the competitors begin, and the other component would commence on Wednesday, November 7, with the first round of games in the tournament.

Giving the rationale for the project, he said: "Suki is an acclaimed champion, he is sought after all over the world and we are very proud to have him in Barbados. For some time now we have been looking to work out a suitable programme where we can tap into his talent. This programme allows Suki to teach the game of draughts within communities, but it [also] allows him to get involved in our Youth Development Programme (YDP)…

"Suki is being retained by this Ministry [Family, Culture, Sports and Youth] to run the draughts project. There will be a contract under which he will operate and he and his assistant will be remunerated… This project is the culmination of a series of discussions with Suki and … it is a fitting way of utilising our World Champion and ensuring that the art of draughts is passed on to younger people."

Mr. King has been the World Go As You Please Champion for the past 21 years and the Minister insisted that Government had an obligation to ensure that his knowledge and skills were shared with Barbadians.

He noted that the objective of the project was also to create an environment for young people to become more empowered to make informed decisions in reference to their sexual beliefs, behaviours and action. "In addition, it is expected that while there will be friendly rivalry, healthier relationships will be formed since there will be interaction among the communities," he opined.

Mr. Lashley said the project would be monitored and evaluated throughout the period to ensure its objectives were being achieved.?? "Once we launch this initial programme and review it, it has the potential to be rolled out across Barbados and be one of the hallmark programmes within the YDP," he suggested.

Mr. King congratulated the Minister and his staff for working "very hard" to develop the project, saying he initially had doubts as to whether it would come to fruition.

??"I welcome the opportunity to participate in this project, in terms of teaching the sport… A lot more teams are interested in joining this competition, so it means that this is good for draughts. In addition, we are bidding to host the world qualifier [draughts championship] for next year and we will have about 60 countries coming here, so having a title for 21 years means [Government is] creating a chance where I can rest a bit because we have draughts players who I am going to teach, and if I teach them they will be the best too," he quipped.

He assured those present, including representatives from the communities, that he would "do my best to make sure that you all learn to play the game". He promised that "out of this programme we will have someone representing Barbados at the world qualifier".

Mr. King said he was pleased blocks were a part of the project because those persons who frequented them were begging him to share his skills with them.

Acting Senior Youth Commissioner, Hillary Austin, said most of the learning would come when those involved in the project engage each other on the blocks and through the competition.

Mr. Austin explained that at the end of the tournament, the players with potential would be taught at a higher level. "This is in the hope of having future champions to carry on the legacy of the champion [Suki King]," he stated.??

Those communities participating in the project are: Gall Hill, Christ Church; Lammings, St. Joseph; Ellerton, St. George; Jessamy Avenue, New Orleans and St. Stephen’s Hill, St. Michael; Haynesville, St. James; and Sherbourne, St. John.

The winners of the tournament will receive $800, while those who take the second, third and fourth places will get $400, $250 and $200, respectively.


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