Lee wants national training facility

Posted on Aug 02 2022

Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee speaks during the send-off event for the CNMI national men’s and women’s basketball teams to the 2022 FIBA Micronesian Cup in Guam last June. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

If he were Bruce Wayne, Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation president James Lee would gift all sports federations  in the CNMI with a training facility. 

But since he’s not the eccentric billionaire of Gotham City whose alter ego is the caped crusader Batman, the NMSA 2021 Administrator of the Year would settle for the Oleai Sports Complex turned into a national training center. 

“My take is to convert the Oleai Sports Complex as the national training facility instead of a community center. I’m not saying the public won’t be allowed to use it. The difference will be that it will be prioritized for the national sports program now instead of the other way around. The public could still use it but at certain times,” he said. 

Lee said having a national training facility will allow athletes to train year-round and will also make sports federations more accountable to the Northern Marianas Sports Association. 

“If each federation is given a place to train then NMSA can hold each federation accountable for their program/results.”

He specifically uses the NMIBF as an example of a sports federation that has a year-long sport program but still has no facility to train on. 

“Basketball for instance, we have created a structured year-round program for the nationals—both juniors and seniors—as well as other community programs/outreach. However, we have no facilities to  conduct any of that.”

He said NMIBF’s junior program is currently jumping around from the Marianas High School Gymnasium to the Gillette Multi-Purpose Gymnasium and worse, sometimes forced to train on outdoor courts if both facilities are booked. 

“They are currently training for the FIBA Oceania Junior Championship set to be held in Guam come November, but by next month when school starts they won’t have the MHS Gym to use. We have a lot of events and potential to go out and compete and elevate our athletes but we are limited because we do not have a home to train.”

Lee said after the success of the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022, CNMI sports is at a crossroads where a decision has to be made whether we are just happy to participate in regional or even international competitions or is the CNMI ready to take the next step.

“We need to start thinking long term, meaning, where do we want to go from here in terms of sports. Do we want to be at a competitive level? If so, then our planning phase needs to include a training facility for each active federation. From there, we can then hold them accountable for the development and results of their programs.”

The NMIBF executive at some point CNMI sports federations should be given the tools to squeeze every ounce of potential from their athletes. 

“We can’t just expect the federation to improve and provide a competitive national team/athletes just by simply updating their bylaws and following the guidelines.”

CNMI Wrestling president John Davis earlier called on Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and NMSA to prioritize the creation of training facilities not only for weightlifting but other active sports in the Commonwealth.

During the Team NMI Celebration Dinner last month at Kensington Hotel Saipan, NMSA president Jerry Tan intimated that weightlifting certainly deserves a home after their showing in the recent Mini Games. 

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com
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