‘He’s my sporting father’
SIMON Brown is a young basketball coach and English teacher at St George’s College (STGC) who has quickly gained Internet fame for how he mentors those left in his charge on a daily basis, whether on the court or in the classroom.
Known through his TikTok videos for his colourful methods of interacting with youngsters in class and on the court, many describe him as a modern educator but, more importantly, as a father figure to young men at a time when they are easily impacted by negative influences and characters.
Although Brown receives an honorary Eternal Father Award on Sunday, Father’s Day, for what has been described as his “exemplary leadership, mentorship, and development of young men”, his modesty will not allow him to bask in the achievement. He instead chooses to praise Clifford Brown (no relation), whom he describes as his “sporting father” for his influence as a coach and mentor.
Simon, a former STGC basketballer, was coached by Clifford, whom he refers to as CB. After university Simon returned to North Street in 2008 to teach — and that is when they reunited on the court.
“While watching one of the basketball games I went to CB — who would become my basketball mentor and father in basketball — during a timeout and gave some advice before returning to the stands,” Simon told the Jamaica Observer. “At this time I was just a teacher. I did the same in another game and, after about two games of doing that, he came up to me and said, ‘Why yuh don’t come to a training session and play some ball?’ At that time, I was very young, about 22 or 23.”
STGC went on to claim the all-island Under-19 title the following year. Brown says CB then signed him up for coaching courses through the Jamaica Basketball Association. Brown says it did not feel like a calling to the sport but it felt natural. He notes his knack for mentorship started as a teen when he played the role of counsellor at Moorlands Camp in Spur Tree, Manchester.
Brown pinpoints watching CB lead his team to that title, and his interactions with a youngster at a primary school during sixth-form ministry as key moments in his realisation that he has a role to play in mentoring youngsters someday. He says the boy, who was referred to as Maldini because he wanted to become a football defender someday, moved him with his stories about his struggles.
Brown says there are specific values he picked up from CB regarding interpersonal relationships.
“The first thing was getting to understand the individual first,” Brown said. “As a coach, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in who is a point guard, who is a defender, who is a striker, what position they play, but we have to also keep in mind that their position is influenced by their personalities. CB showed me how important it is to speak to your players and understand what’s happening in their heads.
“Get to know — without being inquisitive — what’s going on in their home lives. You might find that one of your best players can’t perform on a day because he’s having an issue at home with his mother and stepfather. CB showed me that getting to know who the players are is just as valuable as getting to know how good the players are.
“I also learned camaraderie with the players. CB was always joking with the players when he got the chance. He’s a very tough, rough-cut type of coach but he also knows when to joke around. That camaraderie is very important, especially for young men.”
Brown says CB also taught him about strength, in more than just the physical sense.
“One thing you learn from mentoring is that these kids go through a lot,” he said, “a lot more than they are mentally prepared for, so we have to be the rock that teaches them how to get through these situations — just as much as how we are teaching them how to play a game.”