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Glen Archer drove me, says Bee champ coach

Published:Friday | February 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM

When Hanif Brown won The Gleaner's Children's Own Spelling Bee championship in 2011, nobody would have predicted that just four years later, he would go on to successfully coach a participant to victory.

He did.

Sara-Beth McPherson, a 13-year-old student from Holy Childhood High in St Andrew, went on to win the 2015 Spelling Bee after a protracted back and forth with Jehu Bent from Kingston College.

Now a 17-year-old, fifth-form student at Ardenne High School, Hanif Brown began his path to multiple successes in the Spelling Bee when he placed third in the 2010 competition. At that time, he represented Airy Castle Primary School in St Thomas.

The following year, Hanif won the competition and went on to represent Jamaica well at the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition in the United States, where he reached the semi-finals.

Love For The Bee

After his lofty 2011 performance in spelling, Hanif turned his attention to sports. However, unable to leave spelling for too long, he returned to the Bee in 2012. Since then, he has assisted coaching numerous candidates for the Spelling Bee title.

Hanif began the 2015 training session by initially assisting The Reverend Glen Archer with his coaching duties. However, when Archer became very ill in October 2014, Hanif took over as the coach for not only Sara-Beth, but also Shauna Taylor and Jessica McKnight.

Speaking with The Gleaner after his coaching victory, Hanif said he used his knowledge learnt when he became champion to coach Sara-Beth. He also drew parallels between his time and her performance.

"I could employ what it is that I learnt. I actually said to her before the finals that if it is that you go down to zero handicaps, don't worry. I've been through it. It's fine.

Asked how he managed to be a teenager, a student, and a Spelling Bee coach, Hanif smiled and said: "It wasn't easy."

He added: "I'm not only a Spelling Bee coach. I actually play sports. I have done track and field, and I play football and basketball."

He admitted that over the last year, his multiple activities "forced me to balance my time better".

Thinking Of Mentor

Hanif's passion for success was driven by thoughts of his ailing mentor and former coach.

"I wouldn't want Mr Archer to be worrying about who will be training his spellers. That was one thing that definitely drove me," Hanif said.

Archer is known to have coached the most Spelling Bee champions. He also famously led Jody-Anne Maxwell to become Jamaica's only winner of the Scripps (Howard) National Spelling Bee competition.

Hanif admitted that Archer's record of being the coach of 25 champions was always in his thoughts after he took over as the main coach for Sara-Beth and others.

"It forced me to put (Sara-Beth) under a lot of pressure. I haven't told her yet, don't tell her," the young coach said with a laugh.

"Mr Archer was on a roll. Last year he won, the year before, and the year before. If it is that she actually didn't win, I'm going to feel that it was because of me that she didn't. That pressure was there throughout, from October to now."

After his years at Ardenne High, Hanif plans to pursue studies in mass communication or linguistics.

Hanif is the son of former Morant Bay Mayor Hanif Brown Sr and Violet Solomon. In 2011, The Gleaner awarded Brown Jr with a Youth Award for Excellence.

richard.mitchell@gleanerjm.com