Oral Tracey | Who are the real big coaches?
The recent outcry from Holy Trinity High School Manning Cup head coach Devon Anderson that big schools, namely Jamaica College and Clarendon College - easily the two top recruiting schools in Jamaican schoolboy football - are basically preying like vultures on the Holy Trinity football programme, has again prompted the question in my mind: Who are the real big coaches in local schoolboy football?
Is it the likes of a Miguel Coley, who stepped into a set system at Jamaica College? A system steeped in an aggressive and extensive recruiting of the best schoolboy players from across the length and breadth of Jamaica; a structure and system that are well organised, well executed and well funded? Or are the real big coaches the likes of Devon Anderson at Holy Trinity, and Jerome Waite at Charlie Smith, who continue to make the proverbial 'blood out of stone' by consistently producing good players and competitive teams, despite zero recruiting, limited resources, and skeletal support systems?
There is a solid argument to be made that what Miguel Coley is doing at Jamaica College is much easier to achieve than what coaches like Anderson and Waite continue to achieve against all the odds year in, year out at Holy Trinity and Charlie Smith. All things considered, Coley's impressive record at Jamaica College, having won every Manning Cup title contested since his arrival as head coach must, and should, be viewed in the context of having the proverbial gold spoon in his mouth.
Despite coach Anderson's complaints, his Holy Trinity team is the number-one ranked team in Manning Cup football this season, on the heels of finishing third last season. He continues to replenish his depleted stocks and field competitive teams, despite consistently losing his top players to the big schools. Jerome Waite's body of work at Charlie Smith speaks for itself, winning the Manning Cup in 1990 and again in 1995, with one of the most impressive teams in schoolboy football history. Charlie Smith with Waite at the helm, against all the odds, continue to be perennial challengers for the title.
Waite has consistently said this season, this year's Charlie Smith team is a young team and should be real contenders next season. One fan at the recent first-leg tie against champions Jamaica College shouted from the stands that Waite should be careful how he talks about next season, because Jamaica College might swoop in on his squad in the off season, leaving him with no team next season. I found these to be comical but profound comments, indicative of the reality of schoolboy football in 2017.
Context must never be ignored in any comparative analysis of sporting achievements. If and when awards are given at the end of the season for Coach of the year, Team of the Year, or School of the Year, all things must be considered, and not just the final results and who lifts the trophy. The fact of the matter is that the level of sophistication, aggression and resources that go into the recruiting program at Jamaica College, relative to other teams, inevitably will pour some amount of cold water on the magnitude of the overall achievements for the commensurate period.
Jamaica College, and to a slightly lesser extent, Clarendon College, by virtue of their extensive recruiting and overall support systems, should always be favoured for winning titles, which is not necessarily a function of coaching. We can argue all we want about the merits and demerits of the principle and practice of recruiting, which is a totally different debate. We are now basically crunching the facts as they are. If I had a vote for coach of the year at the end of the season, I would certainly not be looking only at the title winners, but even more so, at the performance of the schools and coaches relative to their support systems and player personnel.
Without even considering what happens for the rest of the season, my two early nominees would be Devon Anderson of Holy Trinity and Jerome Waite of Charlie Smith for continuing to teach, inspire, motivate, and build young players, often for the benefit of others. If you ask me who are the 'real big coaches' in schoolboy football right now, I would point you to the training grounds of Charlie Smith High School and Holy Trinity High School.