Stephen Hart is a typical Trini — fitting in wherever he is. This 45-year-old native Trinidadian has been four years the head coach and two years assistant of Canadian Football International junior team and now handles the victorious Canadian team here.
They have won their six matches and looked superb in their execution and composure, ending their campaign in the Caribbean Football Union Under 15 competition with a 4-0 whipping of Guatemala in the final on Saturday.
He was very pleased and said: “Our boys come from areas so far from each other that the only time they get to bond as a team is when they are on tour. In fact, on the journey to Trinidad we were stuck at the Toronto airport after the Air France crash landing for 13 hours and for a similar time at Tobago when we were coming to Trinidad. That was when they started bonding as they were chosen from widely separated regions,” he said.
He is pleased with his team and one wondered how he got into coaching and in Canada of all places, not a powerhouse in adult international football. The transition was fairly simple and logical he said. He played as a midfielder in T&T in his youth and graduated from school football to play for Hurricanes, Texaco and San Fernando Strikers in the Southern League and represented South. He said, “I learned a lot from Alvin Corneal, Jeff Augustine and Ken Headley, who made me think in playing and pointed me in the direction of coaching.”
“Once I began studying for the various certificates I realised that developing the player was as important as winning competitions. In fact developing players would lead to winning the tournaments we are qualified to win. If you only go for results, you never really progress but if you concentrate on development you will win,” he reasoned. “
I hope to nurture the talent, develop the consistency and discipline that would take Canada to the World Cup with good football education and a real chance of making an impact,” was his aim.
Did he ever think of coaching in T&T we wondered and he replied, “To be honest, it has crossed my mind on occasions but Canada has given me a lot and I have to give back something. “
Hart left here to study Marine Geography at St Mary’s University and while there played “mercenary” football he termed it as it provided the money for travel and some of the expenses of living away from home. He played in the league in Toronto for teams that were made up of some Caribbean people, some Greeks or Italians and did well.
Hart said football is only now beginning to get to the adult Canadians. Ice hockey and rugby are more popular at this time.
Hart is married and has three daughters, 11, eight and five years old respectively. “They like football and if they want to play seriously, I would be delighted but I will not push them. When they are playing I will not be their coach either as I may be too emotionally involved.” He noted the “explosion in football especially among women in North America. The women are more independent and their athleticism is encouraged and developed more that it s in most parts of the world.”
How has T&T changed since you left? “There has been massive physical development in the country and it seems much more affluent but I have not been here long enough or been seriously looking at many aspects of life to make meaningful comment,” he said.