Chester Morgan – making a difference

Life in the Caribbean remains a major challenge. For some it is difficult to even attempt the process of making an impact on one’s society given the eagerness with which so many are apt to destroy the reputation of others merely out of jealousy and envy.
There was a time in this country, much like elsewhere in the world, when it was considered appropriate and important to give credit where it is due; to congratulate those who exhibited talent. That was a time too, when people would encourage others who put their shoulder to the wheel and without reliance on political largess and patronage, achieved success in their undertakings.
Today, things have changed.
Today, our societies have degenerated into an embarrassing conflagration spawned by the ‘crabs in a barrel’ syndrome.
Today, we step on the heads of those who display any talent, doing everything possible to dissuade them from believing in themselves and their potential to do well and set good example for those around them.
The most disconcerting thing about life in our country today is the eagerness of so many in the society to belittle our youths even as we proclaim their potential. We see potential and dismiss it. We then lament the lack of progress.
Perhaps the real problem confronting our society is the deep desire to place self above all else. There is no commitment to the collective best interest of the peoples of our once-beautiful country. We are, in this sense, pour own worst enemies.
It is nonetheless extremely important that we take time to follow the development of those among us who, in their youthfulness, find innovative ways of breaking through, of standing firm on their beliefs and who still value the challenge of being there for others, reaching out to give a hand with the realisation of their immense potential.
In this week’s Column we feature Chester Morgan, of Layou.
Development pathway
Chester Morgan of Layou has given himself over to striving after excellence in sport, particularly in the fields of coaches’ development, coaching and sport as community development. The journey has not been an easy one as already he has been the target of some of the most vicious attacks from fellow coaches.
Layou is one of the nation’s most dynamic communities. There is always something happening in Layou. Not surprisingly therefore growing up in such a community would also have been fraught with challenges, not the least of which would have been the state of the economy and its impact on the families trying their very best at eking out a living.
As with most children it was easy to get into running. Vincentian children grow up engaged in the fundamentals of sport – running, jumping and throwing. This had nothing to do with being systematically encouraged to do so as part of the developmental stages through which sportsmen and sportsmen and often taken by organisations keen on offering a developmental pathway for sporting success.
An early challenge arose during his developmental stages that saw preferences for athletics and football. Of course, in the past young people were not asked to make choices of this nature. Many played at least two sports and became national athletes in both. FO Mason, and Fred Trimmingham are but two that readily come to mind as outstanding Vincentian athletes who were proficient in both cricket and football.
Chester Morgan thought himself a good track and field athlete but to this day feels that he was undone in the sport by the attitude of a coach. This may well be one of the reasons he has devoted so much of his adult life thus far to coaching. Perhaps it is about ensuring that the same thing does not happen to others; not if he can do something about it.
Following the conclusion of his secondary schooling, Chester Morgan was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to Venezuela, to pursue a degree in physical education and sport. There he focused on football, believe it or not.
While his interest in football has never wavered Chester Morgan also enjoyed being part of helping youngsters to engage in track and field athletics.
The opportunity to hone his coaching skills in athletics came when Team Athletics St Vincent and the Grenadines (TASVG) hosted a Level #1 Coaches Education Certification System (CECS) course, to which he was invited.
The combination of an opportunity to at once extend the reach of his love of education, engage children in physical literacy and sport and facilitate their growth and development into whole persons, piqued Chester to strive after excellence.
Success in the IAAF Level #1 programme was in many respects an integral component of his own continuing education programme.
Some people get into coaching for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which focuses on the enhancement of this egos. Indeed, for some, it is more about building their own images rather than the systematic nurturing of the athletes in their charge into becoming whole persons. Chester’s interest, from the very beginning, has been different.
Already a livewire in Layou, he knew where to find the children and devised strategies to get them to see play as a pathway to becoming better people.
More recently, Chester attended an IAAF road race measurement course where he again excelled and received commendation from the leadership of the Regional Development Centre (RDC) of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), based in Puerto Rico. One of the features of the commendation he received was his eagerness to assist those involved in the course who had challenges grasping the fundamental concepts and practical sessions.
The significantly improved track and field performances of the students of the Barrouallie Secondary School speak volumes of the work that Chester has been applying to the education institution to which he has been assigned.
The Barrouallie and Layou communities have responded most positively to Chester Morgan’s seemingly indefatigable approach to physical activity and sport.
Chester Morgan’s commitment to developmental coaching, interest in working with individuals from the very fundamentals through to adulthood made him an ideal candidate for the three-month advanced coaching programme, PAISAC, sponsored by Olympic Solidarity, the development arm of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee (SVGOC), held in Canada.
It was during the PAISAC programme that he first encountered the concept of Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD), grounded in physical literacy. This programme addressed the developmental stages in an individual’s life, from birth through to death, allowing for a fully physically active life, for those who merely engaged in recreation, general fitness or elite sport competition.
When one has a penchant for learning excellence there can be no limits and so it came as no surprise that Chester excelled at the PAISAC, enough to win a one-year scholarship from the institution to further his coaching studies in Japan.
It is again very unfortunate that the ugly head of the twin-monsters, envy and jealousy, pushed some local coaches and their supporters to rumour that Chester got a so-called, ‘free ride’ courtesy some friendship relations.
The Layou-resident also excelled in his one-year programme with Japan, having travelled to Tokyo in 2015 and again in 2016. The programme involved him engage in face-to-face theory and practical sessions in Japan and the conduct of the practical component back home in St Vincent and the Grenadines during the year of study.
Chester’s success in the studies attendant to the scholarship to Japan has allowed him to be invited to be one of the lecturers in the PAISAC programme in Canada in the future.
It should be remembered that Chester excelled in his studies for the PAISAC scholarship while continuing to perform with distinction as the physical education teacher at the Barrouallie Secondary School, coaching is multi-sport club in Layou, N2P (now High Performance), and working with children and adults on getting a grip on physical literacy, physical activity and general wellness.
Technical Director
TASVG, in recognition of Chester’s aggressive commitment to physical literacy, coaching and research, appointed him to the position of Technical Director of the organisation. At the time, the organisation thought that older, more experienced coaches, would have relished the opportunity to give a young coach, already distinguished by his performances at the sport-academic and coaching levels, an excellent opportunity to grow and develop in the position. Instead, to some, the appointment led to a commitment to destroy his character and drive him from the sport.
It has been a tremendous challenge for Chester to withstand the firestorm of criticisms with which he has been confronted since his appointment but he has been in receipt of support from the organisation and from those who work with him, know him, and benefit from his immense commitment and work ethic.
Chester has already produced a revised draft curriculum for physical education and sport at the primary school level. He has also created a draft physical education curriculum for the pre-school system. He is also constantly reviewing and reworking the secondary school physical education curriculum so that it is easier to understand and apply and engenders enthusiasm amongst the students, thereby expanding interest and participation.
He has adopted a creative approach to physical literacy, physical activity, physical education, recreation and sport that generates amongst those who are exposed to him eagerly retain interest and desire to participate.
When the SVGOC agreed to join the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC) in a pilot project to introduce Physical Literacy and Long Term Athlete Development in six Caribbean countries, TASVH called on Chester Morgan to lead the TASVG team in preparing its component. Already the team has completed the major part of its LTAD pathway programme and this is currently being reviewed by the experts at Sport for Life (S4L), based in Canada.
In the latter part of 2016 Chester was selected to attend a Training of Trainers workshop on another CANOC project, the Caribbean Coaches’ Certification Programme (CCCP) a general introduction to the fundamentals of coaching theory and practice for all sports. Here again he excelled.
Since graduating in this programme he has already conducted two CCCP courses in St Vincent and the Grenadines. One involved students of the Community College pursuing physical education and the other in Sandy Bay. Others are already being planned for Bequia and Layou in the near future.
Chester has the distinction of being the only graduate of the most recent CCCP Training of Trainers programme to conduct courses in the few months that have elapsed since, an historic precedent for him, for CANOC and for St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The native population called St Vincent and the Grenadines, ‘the land of the blessed’. Labelled primitive, the native Amerindian peoples must have seen something in the future of this country that we are as yet unable to fathom, much to our detriment and that of future generations.
People like Chester Morgan will soldier on in the field, adding value to the already rich sporting history of this country of ours.
His will remains strong in the face of immense criticism, many of them very unfair.
As a young man he has a bright future and successive generations would relish the fact that he touched their lives, making them better persons, better Vincentians.