It has often been said, with some justification, that the most important aspect of sports is participation. The joy of the game, the camaraderie, the health benefits, and the importance of respecting the rules of the game.
Professional sport has changed most of that, as huge sums of money are spent in providing the best conditions for the participants, and the rewards are great. As such, the aim of the game is winning. Players and coaches (and to some extent) the support group, fully understand, that if you fail to win, there will be consequences. Managers and coaches are usually given mandates. They know what is required at the start of the season.
During the season, if things are not going to plan, there are occasions when corrective action can be taken, by recruiting. In some instances, “transfer windows” are built into the competition to give embattled teams the opportunity to “change course”.
In Jamaica, that understanding is rarely fulfilled. Losing coaches, managers and those responsible for the success of teams (and individuals) rarely step up to the plate and accept responsibility for poor results. The prevailing conditions, the officials, the opponents, idiot rules, are usually put forward as “why” the team keeps losing. It is always, “back to the drawing board”, and “if only so and so was not injured”.
One could not help but wonder how come our cricketers have problems playing spin, when our sport officials are such seasoned practitioners of this “art” when explaining why they will not step aside and give someone else a chance to lead and change the fortunes of the team. In cricket, one of those with leadership responsibilities has co-opted the rallying cry of the president of a neighbouring country, as he praises his leadership qualities while the team sinks lower and lower in ICC ranking, making Associate status a dreadful possibility. The key to this refusal to accept blame lies in the elevation of self over the fortunes of the team and fans.
In local football, one of the most successful clubs is Harbour View Football Club. What they have done and are doing to develop every player who decides to join, and how they negotiate the fortunes of those who are the targets of rivals is the stuff of legends.
Recently, Reggae boy and local football hero Ricardo “Bibi” Gardner, whose rise from the Manning Cup competition among schoolboys to his stint at Harbour View before his transfer to England, made him as close to a national hero as a sportsman can be. At Bolton Wanderers in England, “Bibi” rose to captain of the team and upon his retirement, returned home to his beloved Harbour View to “give back”.
His desire was to use his acquired knowledge and skill to help other members of the club in achieving what he did. Bibi eventually reached the position of head coach, and in this season, Harbour View have not been doing as well as expected in the Red Stripe Premier League. In the 15 matches played so far this season by Harbour View, the team only won twice, losing six games and drawing seven.
In the league standings they are 11th of the 12 teams with a total of a mere 13 points. Harbour View have scored 13 goals while conceding 25. By any stretch of the imagination, an abysmal showing so far. However, in all of this “shambles” the team have stood by Bibi, understanding and waiting. After his last match in charge of the team Bibi, voiced his impatience for the transfer window, where he would get an opportunity to bolster his squad with badly needed strikers. But he fully understands that the buck stops with him, the coach.
His many successful years in the English Premier League have taught him the important lesson of standing up and taking responsibility. Moreover, there was one aspect of his leadership that is painfully lacking in the other leaders of sporting organizations that are in dire need of change: Bibi Gardner LOVES HARBOUR VIEW. He wants what is best for the club, and most importantly he recognizes that he has to give someone else a chance to change the fortunes of the club.
So, despite protestations from fans and fellow executives, Bibi Gardner has resigned as the coach. What a man! What unselfishness! What a recognition that the club is greater than the man, and that the desire to see Harbour View move out of the relegation zone trumps any personal wish or desire that he may harbour. If only this quality of Bibi could be transferred to other leaders whose sport wallow in the depths of performance and ranking.
Bibi Gardener, I salute you. Like a phoenix, you will rise again. Harbour View will not abandon you and your potential. Thanks for showing us that your club means more to you than any personal wish or desire.