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Don’t call me “Coachman”! Leonson Lewis urges youth coaches to demand respect

Make the mistake of calling St Benedict’s College and W Connection youth team coach Leonson Lewis, “Coachman”, and be prepared for the possibility of punishment by push-up.

That’s just one of the strategies in the arsenal of the former Trinidad and Tobago star forward as he moves to bring good old-fashioned discipline and  professionalism into football and coaching.

Lewis recently signed on as football coach at St Benedict’s College in La Romain following the departure of former coach, Dexter Cyrus. His charges include the Under-13, Under-15 and Premier Division teams.

Photo: Former Strike Squad star Leonson Lewis (right) talks to the media after the 2014 Wired868 Football Festival in UWI. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Strike Squad star Leonson Lewis (right) talks to the media after the 2014 Wired868 Football Festival in UWI.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

“[My first question] when I was asked to coach St Benedict’s was Why me?” Lewis told Wired868, “especially with [former coach] Dexter Cyrus’ past performance [at the school].

“The school told me [Cyrus’] contract was up and that they wanted somebody who could spend more time with the team and have more of a developmental role [which] Cyrus was not able to give due to his job and limited time.”

Lewis, who is a full-time coach and former Portugal-based professional, accepted the challenge and says his mission is to develop players not simply to train them. He intends to do this with the three Ds: Discipline, development and dedication.

At St Benedict’s, he aims to transform the very idea of coaching as the development of raw football talent, into personal development through football.

Observing that students come onto the field steeped in the attitudes at large in the wider society, Lewis has devised a strategy for tackling the challenge from every quarter, starting with language:

Photo: W Connection youth team Leonson Lewis (top left) talks to his players at a training session. (Courtesy Leonson Lewis)
Photo: W Connection youth team Leonson Lewis (top left) talks to his players at a training session.
(Courtesy Leonson Lewis)

“It’s like a culture thing now where kids are calling their coaches ‘coachman’. It’s not to disrespect us, but it’s up to the coaches to stop it. I am not their buddy, but a member of authority. When they call me coachman they immediately have to get down and do push-ups.”

As a young professional in Portugal, Lewis said he would not dare to address his coaches as treinador—or coach in Portuguese. Rather the players would refer to their coaches as senhor—Portuguese for Mister—as a respectful gesture towards authority figures.

Lewis’s time playing internationally taught him all about the importance of development in social skills rather than technical skills.

One 13-year-old who addressed him as ‘coachman’ via text message got a sharp response: “I told him to delete my number if you’re going to call me that name. He told me he didn’t realise that was wrong and from them on he’s never referred to me as ‘coachman’ again.”

While he has found older students more resistant to change, Lewis is encouraged by the responsiveness of the younger footballers and remains hopeful for all:

Photo: St Benedict's College attacker Marlon Phillip (right) tries to find a way through the Fatima College defence during 2015 SSFL action. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: St Benedict’s College attacker Marlon Phillip (right) tries to find a way through the Fatima College defence during 2015 SSFL action.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“They’re growing up in a society that has no boundaries or any role models to look up to.”

Lewis, who stressed that he gives players time to adjust before even considering using push-ups as punishment, is concerned not only about player attitude but by attitudes to coaching that devalue its professionalism. It comes from the personal experience of not being paid for two years while coaching the national team:

“We would get something now and then which is why I left because I think when you’re doing a job, that job requires payment. I am totally against these coaches coming into the national teams and saying that they’re coaching for free.

“When you do this you are taking away a paying job from someone else who is more equipped to coach a national team.”

In motivating his young teams, Lewis often draws on his club experience in Portugal and on the heroes that inspire them:

“Many of my young players love Messi and Ronaldo and admire a lot of foreign players, so why not learn the language? If you met Messi, could you tell him anything? I speak fluent Portuguese. I lived there for 13 years and I taught myself the language.”

Lewis knows the power of being able to converse with one’s hero:

Photo: Brazil legend and one of the greatest to play the game, Pelé. (Courtesy Marca.com)
Photo: Brazil legend and one of the greatest to play the game, Pelé.
(Courtesy Marca.com)

“One of greatest joys that I remember to this day was when I won the most goals trophy [at the Caribbean Cup] tournament in the Cayman Islands. I was playing professionally in Portugal at that time.

“They flew in Brazil legend, Pelé, to present the winners of that tournament with their trophies and when he handed me that trophy I spoke to him in Portuguese.

“He asked me with surprise ‘how can you speak Portuguese?’ I told him that I was a huge fan and that I learnt the language to be able to converse with him.”

Working with today’s teenagers, Lewis is having to develop new techniques for coaching youngsters who come from a different age of technology:

“I do see the raw talent but their co-ordination needs improvement. Long ago we used to climb trees and hop and skip, which they don’t do now because you have the video games, the parties and the internet.”

With his back-to-basics strategy, Lewis has set a top three finish as his goal for this season while he works on the all-round development of his young players. He gave every one of them a copybook to track their progress, both on and off the field.

Photo: St Benedict's College midfielder Tyrik Eastman (left) tussles for possession with Fatima College midfielder Kyon Williams during 2015 SSFL action. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: St Benedict’s College midfielder Tyrik Eastman (left) tussles for possession with Fatima College midfielder Kyon Williams during 2015 SSFL action.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“If they respect the game,” he said, “football can take them far because football gave me what I have today.

“The skill is only 30 percent. The rest comes from mentality.”

AboutTia Vialva

Tia Vialva
Tia Vialva is a student at COSTAATT currently pursuing her BA in journalism. She has been published for the Trinidad Newsday and CariFin Games and enjoys creative writing as well as video editing in her spare time.

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152 comments

  1. Oh lawd where some of these bootleg coaches does come out from eh he better win some championships for St Benedict’s and stop his madness. Them really good yes

  2. To each his own oui. Everyone different…once the end result is achieved i.e. discipline

    • I think everyone wants discipline. The salient questions I think some are asking is 1. Would saying coachman or coach or coach Leo really impact discipline? 2. If his team was the most disciplined in the league and then they were relegated or finished close to bottom, what does that say about him as a coach, or any coach for that matter?? I think they are valid questions for honest debate

    • And also ppl want to know how to transform a team that coming second and third and a south intercol and national finalist into a last place team in less than a year ?

    • I get the drift Brian. But from a personal standpoint I rarely criticize a coach because that’s what he see fit to do in his eyes. If results go bad and school sees it fit to fire, then fire him. But I say let him do things his way. That’s just my personal standpoint.

    • Gotcha. I am not criticizing at all. Just debating pros and cons.

  3. Are some of you people serious?? The man’s point is about instilling DISCIPLINE in the youths of today, youths that are left under HIS supervision and you guys talking nonsense about “full of self”, “focus on performance”, “mancoach”…..how ridiculous could some of you be???

    That is why the youths of today have no damn discipline because some “so called adults” accept anything… Who cares what he prefers to be called, that is HIS choice!!!! The article is about children having respect for adults and HIS perspective on it, geeze!!! Dexter Cyrus, are you such a bitter bird that you would use any and every forum to fight your battles?? I hope the time you are taking to be so vocal on social media is not time wasted that could be spent instilling much needed discipline in your boys. I hope they are well behaved in school and have utmost respect for authority!

    It is this same lack of discipline that paved the way for three of our young footballers to run away from camp. Adults today feel they need to be friends with kids so they allow anything and fall for everything. I had to stop myself from reading some of these nasty comments because I really cannot comprehend this level of ignorance.

    • Vachel ‘tallo’ Thompson You made my point….Now run along fat boy and go fight your personal battles elsewhere….Better yet, stay here and here and scroll for something to do twitter fingers, I have zero time for this this nonsense, I’m out!!

    • Hahahaha fat boy…lady you don’t even kno me…that statement alone proves that ur an absolute IDIOT…..you don’t have time but commenting….give us all an ease up plz…typing such rubbish for big people to read…discipline urself to think before you speak that’s wat u should do…..talking bout adults today but ur name calling like ah lil child…allyuh gud we

    • Mr. Air Guard, I know you better than you think…and I know why I said fat boy 🙂 Be very careful little boy, YOU don’t know who you are messing with, it’s a crazy world we are living in!!! Do have a good night!

    • Hahahahahaha u sooo scary….CG? There you go again talking stuff u don’t know about…I didn’t just speak to u about thinking…geeze when will you stop…ohhhh n is that ah threat…you managed to take ah healthy football debate n turn it into this…time n place lady…smh….#think

    • We frown on personal insults Latoya. Other than that we are happy to have your share your views.
      Everyone has their point of view and we try to respect that once they respect others’ right to disagree.

    • Ms Latoya, u r basing all your statements on posts that u have read.
      There r so many things that has transpired for Benedicts to reach where they r now.
      Info that u hav absolutely no clue about, I understand your opinion, but it is jus an opinion, if thats how u see the situation, kudos to you, ………. it is quite obvious however, that if u r defending Leonson Lewis in this situation, u definitely cant hav alll the facts….. and if u dont hav all the facts then u may b defending him for some other reason

    • This person confused….complaining about things said about leonson then went on to personally attack Vachel then threaten him?

  4. i trembled after the match…. during the match i stayed quiet … Cyrus had it hard with me in the stands. i followed some advice to give him a chance but the straw that broke the camel’s back was him quarrelling with a player on field to shake the opponents hand after buffing the rest of the squad to line up on the touch line to shake hands (mind u this not a fete match or charity event).. these students are uncomfortable with him (his attitude is similar to that of the management that got the coach fired), respect will be given to a point the mere fact that you made the players line up to shake hands after what…3 straight defeats and choosing to bench yuh better players because they succeeded under the previous coach…. kudos