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Duckie's long road to success
Keisha Hill, Staff Reporter
AMID THE current fervour emanating from the football fraternity in Jamaica, there is one silent gatekeeper controlling the reins at the eastern end of the island.
For the past decade, Donovan Duckie, current coach of St Georges Football Club's senior and Under-21 teams has helped to mould and develop the talent of hundreds of young men in his home parish of St Mary and, by extension, Jamaica.
His story begins like none other. His love for the game did not begin in a structured manner but interestingly on the streets of Farquharson Lane district in Port Maria. From discarded juice boxes, Duckie and his friends used paper and stuffed these boxes until they were hard enough to kick around.
It was then that he realised he had an aptitude for the game and decided to use it as an avenue for his development.
"It was a struggle for us growing up in what is considered a ghetto area," Duckie said.
"It was definitely hard for us to hold our heads high, but we had to maintain discipline and at the same time we tried hard to accomplish good things in life," he said.
Following his acceptance by way of the then Common Entrance Examinations (now Grade Six Achievement Test -GSAT) to St Mary High School, Duckie began formal training under the tutelage of Danny Hawthorne, now a lecturer at G.C. Foster College. During that time he developed his skills as a central defender and also recognised that he was a gifted goalkeeper. For four years he was a member of the successful St Mary High daCosta Cup side which regularly made the inter-zone finals.
Following high school, Duckie went back to Port Maria Primary School as a pre-trained teacher. However, after one year, curiosity got the better of him and he decided to enlist in the Third Battalion Jamaica Regiment (3JR) of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF). During this time his love for football did not falter and for two seasons he honed his skills as goalkeeper for the JDF's football team.
However, his thirst for academic excellence was left unquenched and for one year he took a sabbatical to undertake a stint at the Miami-Lake Technical in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
Upon his return to the island, Duckie tried his hand at coaching and joined the Yellow Stars team in St Mary, taking them to the Division Two championship and Division One status.
However, feeling a sense of monotony, Duckie felt a surge to move to another level.
"I wanted to excel in what I was doing and felt moving to another team I could develop my expertise in a better way and help to improve the skills of the members of the team," he said.
Moved to star cosmos
As a result, Duckie made his move to Star Cosmos where he stayed for three seasons. Alongside Lewin Persuer, Duckie, in his first season, led the team to their first Super League title. In season two the team won the Super League and was promoted to the then Wray and Nephew National Premier League (NPL).
Interestingly though, throughout this time Duckie maintained full-time employment at the wharf in Ocho Rios.
After successfully guiding Star Cosmos, Duckie made another strategic move and joined St. Georges in Portland.
"I wanted to excel further in what I was doing and I thought St. Georges had a better structure to get to the NPL. I wanted to also prove to my critics that I wasn't a fluke and could deliver the championships on my own," he said.
And proven that he has. Since joining the team in the 2005-2006 season, St. Georges have won the Eastern Confederation title for two consecutive years.
In this Premier League season St. Georges have been consistent in their performances and, despite numerous obstacles, the team currently sits in eighth place on 35 points.
It has been by no means an easy feat for Duckie at St. Georges but, according to him, he wanted the opportunity to show Jamaica and the world the quality and talent that can come from the eastern end of the island.
"It has been very challenging but I have used the opportunity to show that our players can come together and compete at the highest level. It has been good in this capacity and the experience has also helped me to develop as an individual," he said.
"I have learnt so much in dealing with the players that it has helped me in being a better father to my son. The players look to me for guidance and this helps me to assimilate ideas on how to deal with people in general."
Duckie looks forward to St Georges staying in the Premier League for the remainder of the season and returning to the competition next season.
"With all the experience that I have garnered, I will definitely bring something to the table to deal with the challenges for next season. It is taxing, but I definitely have to be there for the team," he said.
As a result of his spectacular performances and accomplishments, Duckie was recruited by former technical director of the Jamaica football programme Velibor 'Bora' Milutinovic as assistant coach to David Hunt for the Under-17 programme. Duckie also acted in the capacity of assistant coach for the senior team when it travelled to Asia.
Respect for simoes
Since the reappointment of technical director Ren? Simoes, Duckie has been appointed as assistant coach for the men's team.
"It's really a good experience with Professor Simoes. I admire him in relation to his guidance and as a person I respect and follow his instructions. It will be difficult to fill his shoes at any time but I will certainly try to emulate his values," Duckie said.
With all these responsibilities, Duckie still finds time for his job at the National Water Commission (NWC) as a Static Operator, a position he has held since 2000.
A man of many talents, the 33 year-old Duckie still has aspirations of winning the Youth World Cup for Jamaica.
This dream took a step closer to reality when he was recently assigned to the Under-20 programme to scout for players in the clubs around Jamaica in anticipation of the upcoming Under-20 World Cup qualifications.
"I am doing all that has been asked of me and based on the results I have had and the experiences I have gained this journey I am on is one in which I expect to continue," he said.