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Balford 'Bally' Reid: A KC legend

Verona Antoine-Smith

Sunday, November 11, 2018

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KINGSTON College's (KC) 14-year winning streak in the Inte-secondary Schools' Sport Association (ISSA) Boys' Championships (1962-1975) has left an indelible mark on many track and field enthusiasts. But none more so than a former athlete who proudly represented his school during that period. He is KC's Balford “Bally” Reid, who was also nicknamed “Double” at the time.

Reid passed his Common Entrance Examination for KC from Chetolah Park Primary School in 1969. A year later he was recruited to track and field and football after his outstanding athletic abilities were spotted during regular physical education classes. Although the nickname “Double” could be easily interpreted to connote his dual ability in sports, it was initially ascribed to him when he won the sprint double.

For Double, 1975 represents the most unforgettable year of his athletic career. Not only did his talents aid KC in winning the 65th staging of the ISSA Boys' Championships, thereby extending their reign to 14 years, but the speedy left-winger and his football team also copped triple titles in Manning Cup, Walker Cup and the Olivier Shield.

One of his most treasured memories is the day he championed the sprint double while just in his first year of Class 1. One might argue that previous athletes namely, Rudolph Burke (Jamaica College, 1916); Lennox Miller (KC, 1963) and Donald Quarrie (Camperdown, 1968) had accomplished this feat at that very stage. However, this accomplishment was exceptional because Double earned the recognition of being the first schoolboy athlete to have ever won the sprint double in the first year of Class 1 whilst smashing one of the records in the process. His new record time for the 100m was 10.4sec and was previously held by Donald Quarrie.

Having run and won the 100m finals a few hours earlier, Double now had the task of running the 200m finals. Among his rivals were Everard Samuels of St Andrew Technical High School and Herb McKenley Jr of Calabar. Double held the lead for the first 120m. He came off the corner into the straight clenching his right leg as he pulled up due to a torn quadriceps. As he stood there agonising everyone passed him, but the brave Double refused to yield. So he dismissed the pain, regained composure, charged the remaining 80m of the track and won the race. Despite the initial setback, he equalled the record time of 21.90s. He ecstatically recounted the euphoria in the National Stadium that evening. For the spectators, it was transient, but for him it was a moment that would last a lifetime.

SUPPORT SYSTEM

Reid attributed his personal victories to his natural God-given ability and the unwavering support he got from his school, team, coaches, and family. Being the youngest of seven children, he had the support of older siblings, two of whom were also athletes. However, he stated that his parents played an integral role in how he managed his studies and his involvement in extracurricular activities.

Nevertheless, his greatest motivation came from his football coach, KC's George Thompson, who he labelled a mentor and an inspiration. According to Reid, Thompson had a winning culture, not just for sports but for life in general. He provided good guidance for his players' mental and physical preparation and always encouraged them to hone goal setting and time-management skills. Reid remembers Thompson for always saying: “A race is not much different from living your life.” He was therefore his inspiration both on the field of play and in dealing with the issues of life.

For this reason, Reid believes it is not sufficient to have coaches who are only competent in their area of expertise. He insists that they should also demonstrate the ability to provide guidance to the youngsters in their charge.

WIN SOME, LOSE SOME

In 1975 Reid missed out on an opportunity to run at the Carifta Games due to his torn quadriceps. He had hoped that the following year would have provided another opportunity, but Champs 1976 had its own setbacks. Not only was he advised against running the 200m due to injury, but he was beaten in the 100m by Samuels, who won both events. Even worse, KC lost what would have been its 15-year hold on the Mortimer Geddes Trophy as arch-rivals Calabar won the championships. The football team also failed to reclaim the Manning Cup title. Tivoli High was victorious.

Surprisingly, Reid stated that he did not view those outcomes as disappointments. He stressed: “You win some, you lose some.” He insisted that every competitor try to appreciate that reality.

He did admit, however, that his biggest disappointment as a schoolboy athlete was the fact that his parents never once came to the National Stadium to see him run.

ADVICE TO PARENTS

Like Coach Thompson, Reid encouraged athletes in Jamaican schools to focus on their educational goals just as much as they do the events on the field. He urged them to organize their time and set realistic goals. He said he was aware that many parents have serious reservations about their children spending several hours training, especially during the concluding years of high school; however, he encouraged them to help their children to cope, keeping in mind that one of the most tangible benefits attached to extracurricular activities was the possibility of securing scholarships. In concluding, he strongly recommended that parents find the time to watch their children compete. It is immeasurably important.

TO THE CLASSROOM

In 1977 Reid migrated to the United States to take up a two-year track and field scholarship at Odessa College in Texas. During his time he won silver in the 4x100m at the All-American relays. By 1979, he secured a football scholarship from the University of North Texas. He was the only black player on the team. He acknowledged he was doing extremely well and scored several goals for the “Mean Greens”; however, he indicated that racial discrimination was too much to bear so he quit the team and opted to focus solely on his studies.

While pursuing his bachelor's degree in physics he worked part-time as an electron-microscopist using the transmission electron microscope (TEM), which he explained is used to generate magnifications of tiny particles into high-resolution images. He added that the TEM is a useful device in several areas of science such as pathology, forensic analysis, morphology, medical research, and diagnosis, to name a few.

Reid is presently a teacher at his alma mater. Who would imagine that he who once moved with the speed of light would later go on to teach about its dynamics, force and energy? He joined the KC staff in 2014 teaching both physics and visual arts, and is renowned for his pencil portraits. Of note, he was coached by the late Edna Manley in this art form. Several of his portraits can be found throughout Europe, Africa, Japan, North America and, of course, Jamaica.

The spiritual man

Reid has always been a Rastafarian, but was not allowed to sport his dreadlocks. And although he spent 27 years in the US, he refused to define himself by Western standards. Eventually, his ambitions led him to a place where he started to question his role as a spiritual being and his relevance to creating a balance in the universe. In particular, he wanted to unearth the relationship, if any, that physics played in the spiritual life and welfare of African descendants. His investigation was inspired by the 1979 publication of Fritjof Capra and Gary Zukav. Consequently, he embarked on a three-year journey to several African countries in search of those answers.

Reid is passionate about his black roots and uses every opportunity to instil black pride and consciousness in his students. He also encourages them to be cognisant of their roles and responsibilities as men in society whilst urging them to represent their school and country well.

SEEING DOUBLE

Balford “Bally” Reid, aka Double, just recently ended his tenure at KC as he went off into retirement. Without a doubt he has served his school community well. His students would have heard many accounts from various teachers and old boys that reverberate “the brave may fall but never yield”, but Reid's symbolic demonstration of pulling up in the 200m, followed by his valiant run to victory, will be etched in their minds forever.

A man with an interesting sense of humour, Reid said of his retirement: “If you see me at KC this September, go and check your eyes, because you'll be seeing Double.”

Verona Antoine-Smith is a teacher in a public secondary school. Send comments to the Observer or to verona.antoinesmith@gmail.com.

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