The use of knowledge and experience to protect the young


The use of knowledge and experience to protect the young

Saturday, October 10, 2020

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MANY years ago the highly respected football coach Mr Wendell Downswell told this newspaper that he saw himself, first and foremost, as a teacher.

His job, he said, was not just to help footballers enhance their ball-playing talent, but to use his experience and knowledge to guide his charges in all aspects of their lives.

In any case, a more rounded human being was far more likely to have a successful career in football or in any other professional endeavour than would otherwise be the case, Mr Downswell suggested at the time.

We are reminded of Mr Downswell's philosophy following advice to fellow football coaches from Mr Omar Edwards in response to the traumatising situation now facing young, talented Jamaican footballer Mr Junior Flemmings.

Football followers will be aware that Mr Flemmings has run into trouble after being found guilty of using a Jamaican homophobic slur against an openly gay opponent in the USA's United Soccer League.

Mr Flemmings denied the charge but has been banned for six matches, effectively ending his season.

The development has cast his overseas professional career under a cloud.

Mr Edwards, a former coach of Tivoli Gardens Football Club who now guides the Turks and Caicos national football team, is reported as having said that teaching behavioural skills beyond football is of equal value in the development of a player.

Common decency, respect for all, and adherence to the maintenance of human dignity should be constantly highlighted by coaches as they seek to teach football, Mr Edwards said.

The need for older people – including coaches, teachers, community leaders and of course parents – to provide guidance to the young is an well-embraced principle.

In this space, for example, this newspaper has often pointed to the role coaches, administrative staff, and others must play in ensuring sportsmen and women understand the importance of avoiding use of prohibited drugs and all illegal, performance-enhancing substances.

It all goes back to Mr Downswell's commitment to being a teacher, first and foremost.

Those who provide guidance to the young must do all in their power to protect their charges, using knowledge as a medium.

In the Jamaican context, where socialisation and home training are often lacking, school or its equivalent must serve as “home away from home”.

Of course, with the best will in the world, and even after all best practices are followed, things can go wrong.

As Mr Edwards points out, football is a passionate, highly emotive contact sport in which “you may lose it for split second in the game and you may say something in the heat of the moment, not because you want to ridicule your opponent, and something may come out in a way [that's not acceptable]”.

There are no guarantees, but obviously such unsavoury incidents can be kept to a minimum if the young are prepared as best as possible to be well-rounded human beings, totally respectful of others.

It's a challenge not only in football and wider sport but in all aspects of everyday life.

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