“Players win and coaches lose,” is an often repeated saying in sports.
However, there are many examples of coaches who have gone on to rubbish that saying while doing it in their own inimitable way.
One such coach is 40-year-old Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore, the Montego Bay native who is steadily charting an impressive career path, even while still in relative infancy.
The former Reggae Boyz star player who notched a remarkable brace in guiding Jamaica to a momentous 2-1 triumph over fellow debutantes Japan at the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals in Lyon, France, was propelled into the international job on an interim basis on November 18, 2007, with very little coaching experience under his belt.
He was given the job on a temporary basis to replace the fired Serb Bora Milutinovic when Captain Horace Burrell regained the presidency of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) at the back-end of 2007 and he duly opened his campaign as head coach with two victorious outings against El Salvador (3-0) and Guatemala (2-0) at home.
He was again called upon a year later in the heat of battle in the middle of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying campaign following the dismissal of his mentor, Brazilian Rene Simoes, who was on his second stint as technical director of the Jamaica programme, after a run of poor results, dogged by rigidly poor team selections.
At the time, Jamaica were desperate for victories, needing three wins from their last three matches against regional kingpins Mexico, central American giants Honduras and the pesky Canada.
Whitmore stepped in and got the job done with the victories, but it wasn’t enough as the gap left by Simoes was too huge, and the team failed to advance on goal difference.
Since then, Whitmore has gone from strength to strength and his numbers speak volumes.
He later made way for John Barnes while understudying the Jamaican-born former England international until given the job on a full-time basis in June 2009.
Whitmore has guided the Boyz in 45 international games (17 competition and 28 friendly internationals) with 26 wins (58 per cent), 13 losses and six draws.
His teams have registered 62 goals, while conceding 35, which is 1.4 goals scored per game and .8 goal conceded per game.
But it gets better for the former midfielder who was blessed with silky smooth skills. In his 17 competition games, his teams have chalked up a dozen wins, two draws and only three defeats, with 27 goals scored and eight conceded.
That is a winning percentage of 70.6, with 1.6 goals scored per game and 0.5 conceded per game.
He’s won half of his 28 friendly internationals, lost 10 and drawn four.
Clearly from the stats, Tappa’s team has responded very well in competition games, a true reflection of his own character.
In five World Cup Qualifying games his teams have recorded four wins and a draw with seven goals scored and just one against; in seven CONCACAF Gold Cup matches his Boyz have notched eight goals, while conceding four, and in five Digicel Caribbean Cup matches, they have tallied 12 goals, while allowing three.
Who can forget the summer of 2009 when he was first appointed. He had penciled into the team a number of veteran players on whom he was relying heavily to keep the team together. Some of these players he had played with, but as fate would have it, internal issues significantly hampered his preparations and the team responded accordingly, losing twice while winning once to be booted from the competition in the preliminary stage.
Whitmore endured that embarrassment and accepted it as part of the learning curve. He identified a group of players and started building a core around them and it culminated with him raising the Digicel Caribbean Cup in Martinique at the backend of the following year.
Still, there was much work to be done, because the Gold Cup and the World Cup Qualifiers were around the corner.
Early in 2010, Whitmore came under public pressure for parting ways with his assistant coach, the veteran Bradley Stewart, and requesting for the services of Brazilian Alfredo Montesso.
After all, Stewart was handpicked by Whitmore to help him guide the national team when he was first called to the job. But he stood firm in his conviction that the Brazilian was the man to help him take the Reggae Boyz project to the next level where they could compete on a more sustained basis.
Their first assignment was the Gold Cup and though they fell to the United States in Washington, DC, in the quarterfinals, there was a lot to be proud about as it was the general belief that the team displayed a level of football, up to that game, that was of a significantly higher quality than exhibited ever before.
A testament to the fact that they were on the right track and were building something worth continuing with.
The wheels fell off a little bit thereafter during the friendly games, and Whitmore and his technical staff were hurried in trying to rebuilding the chemistry and to get the pieces back together in time for the start of the World Cup Qualifiers.
But yet again the coach come under mounting pressure for refusing to select some of the fan favourites, players who could be regarded as match winners, players who could be dubbed the ‘X factors’.
However, Whitmore remained resolute. He contended that he was selecting not necessarily the best players, but more importantly, the best team, and he was willing and ready to pay the ultimate price for that conviction.
He won’t be bullied by public pressure, he’s playing to his own tune.