Alfred Henry, coach of Jamaica College’s Manning Cup team has been suspended by the Inter-secondary School Sports Association (ISSA) for one year for an incident that occurred during a Manning Cup match between the school he coaches and Denham Town High on November 10. That incident involved Henry verbally abusing a referee and bringing the game into disrepute. His suspension runs from November 28, 2012 to November 27, 2013.
He has since resigned his position from the school but the short-tempered coach faces further sanctions following his actions at the recently concluded Walker Cup final where he again took on the referee after his team lost 0-1 to 2012 champions Wolmer’s Boys’. This kind of behaviour is not new to Alfred Henry. Lest we forget, this is a coach who was suspended between November 2009 and November 2010 for similarly boorish behaviour. It is safe to say that this has become a trend for Henry, who is a trained teacher and a trained journalist; a man who holds a Masters degree in Communications. Obviously, he is not putting what he has learned into practice.
From a broader perspective; perhaps persons like Coach Henry should not be allowed to coach schoolboy sports. Sports as far as I am concerned are in schools to encourage physical activity and good health, to teach responsibility, respect for authority and teamwork and to identify and develop athletic talent. With this in mind, persons such as Henry are not a good fit. Yes, he may be a great coach but his character is what is on trial here. In sports, we learn to take the good with the bad – you win some, you lose some. It is what it is. It is also true that bad decisions made on the field of play can be challenged in the boardroom thereafter and this is what makes Coach Henry’s actions so indefensible.
In hindsight it was no surprise when Junior Flemming came face to face with the referee after he received a red card late in the Walker Cup final. Flemming, the national under-17 captain demonstrated boisterous behaviour similar to that shown by his head coach, when what he should have done is leave the field of play and leave it up his school to file a protest afterward if he feels he was wronged. But when you consider that this could be the example Henry has set for his team by his own boorishness. It is why he has no place in schoolboy sports.
Henry is also an example of what is wrong with schoolboy sports in Jamaica. No longer are schoolboy sports about the participation; getting kids involved in physical activity that will prevent the onset of childhood obesity, getting them fit and strong and just having fun. Now, sports in high school have become almost solely about winning. Over time, too many coaches have started to take sports too seriously.
It is what we see schools ‘buying’ student athletes under the guise of giving them better opportunities when in truth it is the school that buys that benefit while increasingly, after victory has been attained, the ‘asset’ is discarded; abandoned without having had the benefit of the ‘better’ education that was guaranteed. It is why people like Lascelles ‘Muggy’ Graham are railing against such practices and why Minister of Education Ronnie Thwaites is promising to take action against the ‘buying’ of athletes.
Winning is important , yes. Learning how to win is a valuable lesson that is best learned at an early age but not to the extent that we now see every day in high school sports in Jamaica. Sport is also about passion and if we take the fun out of sport at this level pretty soon we could see more of our talented children opt for other pursuits; those where fun can be had and where valuable lessons can still be learned. Coach Henry is a symptom of what has gone wrong with high school sports in Jamaica, something that desperately needs to be fixed.
One also has to wonder that given his history why was he brought back after his suspension was lifted in 2010, surely Jamaica College’s administrators must have known that you can’t teach and old dog new tricks and that there was little chance that Henry was not going to return a rehabilitated individual. As ISSA’s George Forbes declared, Henry is always blaming someone else for whatever goes wrong.
Let’s hope that now that he has been suspended again, Henry stays away for a long time and lets hope that the lessons learnt from his behaviour will be readily grasped and serve to improve the fun factor in school sports.