Jackie Walters: From aspiring army man to schoolboy football icon
MAY PEN, Clarendon — If he wasn't a football coach, Patrick 'Jackie' Walters would most likely have been a high-ranking army officer, chances are, he would have been just as successful.
It's not hard to imagine Walters leading ranks at Up Park Camp. He's a staunch disciplinarian, diplomatic, always choosing his words carefully, and pays strict attention to detail.
He knows how to psyche out the opponent, too, and as his record shows, he normally succeeds in combat.
“The plan was to join the army. That was my ambition as a youngster. I really loved that kind of thing,” Walters said. “I actually coached the army team for a while, too.”
But, the football gods would have none of it. And in his own words, he has no regrets after a 34-year trophy-laden career. “None,” he said. “None whatsoever.”
Walters, the second of six children for his parents, is a city boy who's finding life quite favourable in the country. He's originally from Duke Street but grew up in Vineyard Town where his football education began.
“Vineyard Town at the time had a lot of top Jamaican footballers (like) Allan 'Skill' Cole, Neville Oxford and the Bell brothers. I never know any of them personally at the time, but I used to play a lot of scrimmage about the place,” shared Walters, who played Division Two football for Cavalier.
Unlike his five siblings, Walters never attended high school. “I was the slow learner,” he said. Speaking to him you couldn't tell. He has a tremendous command of the English language, highly philosophical and witty.
After leaving the Central Branch Primary School, he attended Papine Senior School before enrolling at the St Andrew Technical Training Centre.
He went on to work a number of odd jobs before joining the public sector, but all this time his mind was on football. “I used to watch football religiously,” he remembered.
“I would go down to Kingston College to watch them train everyday with George Thompson as the coach. He was my first influence as a coach.”
“Then, in 1976, just out of the blue,” he added, “I was invited to coach Vineyard Town Minor League team by Clovis McLean, the then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Housing. The interest gradually grew from there.”
His big break would come two years later. “In ’78, I decided that I needed to upgrade myself so I actually went to England to do the FA coaching course and when I came back to Jamaica I got my first stint at Camperdown High,” said Walters, who has since done additional coaching courses in Mexico, Brazil, The Netherlands and Germany.
Glenmuir High's recent daCosta Cup triumph brings to 20 the number of senior schoolboy titles the 60-oddyear- old coach has won.
Before his Glenmuir sojourn, which started in 2002, he won titles at Camperdown and Clarendon College in the 1970s, 80s and 1990s, respectively.
Asked to name his all-time favourite schoolboy team (amongst those he has coached), Walters could not settle on a single side. He instead listed teams from each of the four decades in which he won titles. “The 1988 Camperdown team was probably the most talented. They had a lot of flair,” he said. “The 82 team was very good also. Their characteristic was their maturity.
The (1998) Clarendon College team also played with a lot of style, while the 2004 Glenmuir team was simply ruthless in terms of how they played. They really knew the game and could engage anytime you talking about football.”
But, you also get the feeling that the current Glenmuir side, not necessarily for its football, has a soft spot in his heart. It's a team that he built from the ground up and, unlike the vintage sides of the 1990s and the early part of this decade, it is not a classic Glenmuir side.
With the exception of the prolific goalscoring duo of Noel Johnson and Newton Henry, Walters had no real name brand players at his disposal. He, however, had a group of hard workers who were willing to learn.
As a result, no one expected them to beat St Elizabeth Technical High School (1-0) in the December 1 final at Catherine Hall.
“Even the community deserted us,” he said, “so it was a challenge in the sense that a lot of people close to the school, historically, felt that unless you (recruit) players you cannot succeed (but) that was the motivating factor for us.”
Another of Walters' major achievement in youth football is having the distinction of guiding Jamaica to its first FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 1999.
They failed to win a game in the tournament, hosted by New Zealand, but unearthed a number of promising players (including Keith Kelly, Sean Fraser) who were expected to graduate to the senior set-up. However, 13 years on, only defender Shavar Thomas is currently in the team.
“I really don't know why,” Walters remarked, “but it's a big disappointment for me.” The formula for his success might never be known, but there are those who believe that his ability to motivate players sets him apart from his colleagues.
“There's no doubt about him in that regard,” said former national goalkeeper Alien Whittaker, who was an integral member of Walters' 1998 Clarendon College Triple Crown team. “He's a great motivator. He knows exactly how to get you to do whatever he wants you to do on the field. He's really a father figure.”
By his own admission, he is always willing to learn from others around him. “Sometimes you even have to listen to the groundsman,” he said. “He might be seeing things that you don't see. As the coach, you have to know where to draw the line but sometimes you even have to value the opinion of your players.”
As expected, Walters' phone has not stopped ringing since that triumphant Saturday night in Montego Bay when they pipped STETHS for the daCosta Cup crown.
Some of the calls are the customary messages congratulating him on his latest daCosta Cup success, while the others are from ambitious headmasters and sports administrators trying to pry him away from Glenmuir.
But, by the look of things, it will take an almighty pull to steal him away from the Clarendon school just now. He has unfinished business here.
“I have won three (major titles) at every school that I have gone to, so I would love to break that jinx at Glenmuir,” he said.
“We have been working with this current crop of youngsters for a while now and they have been showing a lot of promise not only in football but also in academics. Therefore, it is now a pursuit of developing a team that not only produces good football players but also sound academic minds,” said Walters, whose dedication to Glenmuir goes well beyond football.
“I was always interested in coaching at an Anglican school,” he said. “I grew up as an Anglican and wanted to make a contribution to that church.”
Walters' major schoolboy trophies
Camperdown: Manning Cup (1978, 79, 82); Olivier Shield (1979, 82); Walker Cup (1982, 88)
Clarendon College: daCosta Cup (1994, 1996, 1998); Olivier Shield (1998); Ben Francis (1998)
Glenmuir High: daCosta Cup (2004, 06, 12); Olivier Shield (2004, 06); Ben Francis (2004, 05, 09)