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Claude Grant - Driving force behind Herbert Morrison
HERBERT MORRISON Technical High School in its 30 years of existence has established itself as a 'football school'.
That label, however, has been changing gradually as it has managed to distinguish itself in other sporting disciplines. Athletics is one of the areas that has begun to share the spotlight with football and in 2006 it even outshone football as the male team placed sixth, its highest ever finish at the annual Boys' and Girls' Championships - with 71 points, to become the top school outside the Corporate Area.
The girls placed joint 14th with St. Elizabeth Technical High School on 15 points. The man largely responsible for the school's emergence as a track and field power is 34-year-old Claude Grant. He spoke to The Gleaner recently.
Q: Not many people have heard about Claude Grant. Who is he?
CG: I would not really call myself a track coach. I would say I am teacher first and a coach after. My objective for the track team is to see that the students get the end product of a scholarship upon leaving school. I get most of my satisfaction from the success of the students whom I have been able to guide in achieving or getting close to achieving their full potential.
Q: How and when did you get to be associated with Herbert Morrison?
CG: I came here in 1998 after leaving G.C. Foster with the aim that within five years the school should be doing well based on the type of programme that we planned to put in place and changing the psyche of the students. When I just arrived it was a football school, that was the way it was seen by staff and students alike. Mr. Whinstanley, the founding principal of the school, spoke to me about the goals he had for the school after employing me. The goals that I wanted as a teacher, a coach and as a person, was to make sure that the goals set are met at the end of the term.
Q: How would you measure your achievement so far?
CG: Well, I would consider my success as moving the school in terms of the name now being recognised as a track and field school as well as a football school. I have also managed to get students scholarships and have some of them represent the country such as Nikeisha Anderson. Anderson did very well, made the national team about five times. She won a bronze medal at the World Juniors in Italy in 2004 and was a part of the gold medal 4x100m team. Two years before that she made the final in the 200m in Kingston.
Others who have done well also are Rayon Golding, Kiel Brown and Randy Gooden.
Q: You are the primary track and field person at the school, how do you manage to be so effective?
CG: Each year I look at the students I have and I will tell a particular student that he or she has the ability to make the national team, and we work towards that. If you can make the national team then it stands to reason that you must do well at the national champs. Boys' and Girls' Championships is a stepping stone, Western Champs is a stepping stone. The developmental meets are build-ups to that also.
I have a very good crop of athletes who listen well. What I do before I start the programme is that I sit down with each of them and chart a course for the season. We look at the best event, goals objectives and aim for the year. I give each of them a form to fill out with information such as time they want to do, distance they want to jump and so forth.
After each meet I call them back and we reassess. We look to see if we were realistic or if it can be achieved. We discuss what it is we can do. I do not go as a coach and say you must. I say we because it is a team effort. If I am not at training and I give a programme, it will be done because they know that at the end of the day they benefit the most. Yes, the school provides the opportunity but they are the ones who benefit most of all.
Q: This year was a particularly good year for you, was it not?
CG: Interestingly enough, the school placed sixth in the island. The previous year we came ninth but I was only coaching part time as I went back to school. What I did was to organise them, prepare a programme from them, motivate them and we came ninth. We finished ninth the year before as well. We have been improving consistently as before the ninth-place finishes we came 13th and now we are up to sixth.
Moving up to sixth place was not a surprise based on the athletes that we had and we geared them towards that. We came second at Western Champs but we normally use it as a build up. At champs you have to plan carefully and look at the schedule of events and place your athletes based on that.
Q: What about the girls?
CG: The girls came 14th with 15 points. The girls team had fallen off a bit. Last year we did not get any points so we are now rebuilding. They did well; Antonique Campbell is doing well. She is a Class 3 sprinter who will again be in Class 3 next year. She should make the Central American and Caribbean team. Next year the girls will be doing better.
Q: How did you get involved and manage to become successful so early?
CG: I have always been in track. I went to Rusea's and we never did well and I always thought it was because of the level of preparation that we had undergone. I went to G.C. Foster with the intention to do well because I always thought that we should have been doing as well as the students in Kingston.
I said to myself, in order for me to do well I must be where the coaches are and be around what is going on. What I did was to manage the team two years at G.C. Foster and the last year I assisted Maurice Westney. I did not just do the normal course and go through, I tried to get additional information. As a student, I tried to learn more and I learnt a lot from Mr. Westney and a lot from Michael Clarke who was one of my lecturers.
I learnt a lot from him in terms of getting organised by myself because he told us that we should always try to do that. You are given a task to do and you must try to complete the task. I also do a lot of research on my own and I took that into championships as well.
Q: What is next for you as a coach?
CG: As I have said, my goal is that at the end of a year improvements must take place. When I came here, the school never had a gym and I explained to the principal that we had to get one. It was then time to focus on getting the food programme in place and when the students are motivated to participate and reach their goal at the year or their tenure then it means that we have achieved our goal. It is always about helping those I am put in charge of to maximise their potential. In this current crop we have champions already such as Dwight Robinson (Class 2) and Tevaskie Lewin (Class 3). There are also others such as Gerald Duncan, Keneil and Dexter Lee, Gaffar Ellis and a number of others who will continue to improve.
- Nodley Wright