Friday, April 12, 2024

JEFF BROOMES: Take a bow Mr Williams


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A VISIT TO the auditorium at the headquarters of the Barbados Workers’ Union brings one face to face with a very impactful mantra: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  This is a guiding principle for the ages, and specifically for persons in leadership positions.

The challenges we face today will not be the same as tomorrow. The resources required to confront these challenges will invariably be different tomorrow. Unfortunately, we do not have a crystal ball to show us exactly what the future holds.

Hence, in education, we focus on involvement, exploration and problem-solving, knowing that the mere inculcation of information will leave us short of what is really needed. Consistent with this is the need for planning. Identify what you need your students or your establishment to be like some time in the future and structure accordingly.

A prime example of vision and appropriate planning was observed at the Combermere School.  There are very few institutions that have made the impact on our national landscape that school has made. This is seen in business, politics, the judiciary and culture. 

While Combermere soared in those areas, cricket was like blood running through its veins. This is the school of Derek Sealy, Frank Worrell, Wes Hall, Rawle Brancker, Peter Lashley, Winslow Ashby, Orlando Greene, Roland Holder and a plethora of others.

This is a school that won the first division competition of the Barbados Cricket Association. One can check almost every successful club team in our domestic tournaments and a Combermerian can be found playing an integral part in such success.

Suddenly, hard times fell and this school applied to the BCA to drop its second division team and play only at the intermediate level. This was a veritable nightmare and beyond any level of acceptance. Combermere had fallen on hard times and they had to be assisted. 

The cricket board in its wisdom worked out a structure that allowed this school to partner with St Leonard’s to field a team. This allowed some of these enthusiastic boys to hone their skills and give breathing space for the excellence of Combermere to resurface.

Then it happened. The educational directorate made a Combermere alumnus chairman of the board and the rest is the stuff of which movies are made. Vernon Williams came with commitment, vision and a clear sense of purpose. His school must be back on top.

His strategic plan involved a variety of areas. He thought coaching was important; he saw constant practice as vital and he saw balance as necessary for success to be sustained. The ingredients were in place for the implementation to commence.

He reached outside of the teaching fraternity and hired a qualified, experienced cricket coach in Roddy Estwick. He engaged the business community to help provide an all-weather practice facility that would prove to be a hive of activity. He invited specific individuals to mentor and guide the youngsters with the clear thrust that academics must never be sacrificed.

Of course, the criticisms came. He was over emphasising cricket relative to other sports. He was putting too much money in that area. He was wasting time. Cricket could never be the same again.  He heard it all, but with strength of character and dedicated intent he stood firm.

Recently, the success of his vision started unfolding. We watched with pride as Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Kraigg Brathwaite, Carlos Brathwaite and Jomel Warrican showed the world the true qualities of a Combermerian.To top it off, Roddy is now a West Indies Test coach. This is just the beginning as the school also overpowers all others in our domestic tournaments.

Vernon Williams, your quality in a variety of areas cannot be questioned. We thank you for your vision and your strength against all odds. Combermere as well as Barbados and West Indies cricket are the better for your focus.

Come to the front of the class and take a bow, my friend.

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser
who also served as vice-president of the BCA and director of the WICB.



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