Thu | Mar 30, 2023

Hail the coaches who play Dad

Published:Sunday | June 19, 2022 | 12:16 AMSharla Williams - Gleaner Writer

IN A society where most homes are headed by women, Jamaican student-athletes often look to their male coaches to be the father figures in their lives.

Former track and field coach at Calabar High School, Michael Clarke, said about 90 per cent of the boys he has coached did not have a father at home and so he would have to be a father figure for scores of young men.

“They (the fathers) were in jail, they are away trying to make ends meet and then the coach presents himself as the only person who can help them (the athletes) make decisions, guide them, help them with provision and treat them well as young men growing up,” Clarke said.

He said he would do many fatherly things to help the young men to stay focused and not follow the wrong path.

“I give them advice in relationships; try to assist them with their mental growth; try to guide them on their social path, sexual path, academic path; even guide them as to what they should be doing at home where the mother is trying to make ends meet; and try to get them involved in community activities,” he said.

Clarke, who led the all-boys institution to several ISSA Boys’ and Girls’ Athletics Championship (Champs) titles, said he uses sports to encourage the young athletes to become better citizens and ultimately better fathers.

“Sports can be used as a vehicle to progress themselves (through) getting approved for scholarships abroad in institutions coming out of high school,” he said.

“Sport is an integral part of how they get their education, get jobs, make friends (and) so on.”

Head coach of Edwin Allen, the many-time Champs title winners, Michael Dyke, said many of his athletes are also without fathers at home but he tries his best to keep them focused.

“I am a father (and) I know what it is like not to have any father, so I help to guide them in the best possible way,” Dyke said.

Dyke, whose team consists of mostly girls, said they sometimes find themselves in situations where only a father can assist them, but seeing that many of their fathers are absent, he would have to act as replacement.


“A lot of them tend to be more confident, sharing problems and challenges with me, so I always make myself available to listen to them and give personal advice, which will sometimes help them to overcome the challenges and motivate them to move forward,” he said.

When asked how one maintains a balance between being a coach and a father figure, Clarke said both roles interrelate.

“It is one and the other and not one or the other,” Clarke said

“You have them around you for four hours every evening and you build a relationship, one of trust, loyalty and dependency. They are going to believe in you and you are going to believe in them.”

In a country where broken homes are often blamed for the lack of social order, Dyke said more investment in sports by the Government could help to curtail this problem.

“Sports requires so much discipline that the country should invest a lot more in sports programmes and use the people who are involved in sports to be the connection with people who are delinquent and undisciplined,” Clarke said.

“Because most times, when children are in school who are giving a lot of problems, we try to engage them in some form of sporting activity and help them to channel that energy into another area and sometimes when they realise that they are seen as somebody who can do something and people will recognise them, they feel a lot better about themselves, so it helps to build self-esteem.”