Dec 17, 2017
“The fact that I can have over 40 youngsters that I am able to take away from whatever misgiving they might be experiencing; take them away from crime; take them from probably an abusive home for a couple of hours keeps me going every single day.”
By Gordon French
In football, it is often said that the worst ‘blindness’ is only seeing the ball.
Sheron Abrams has been teaching young male and female players in the communities of Buxton and Friendship how to achieve goals by getting the ball between the uprights on the field of play.
Off the field, Sheron, fondly known as ‘Coach’ continues to shape the minds of young players, through the sport, to become productive citizens in their community.
Mondays through Thursdays, between 4:30 and 9 p.m., Sheron could be found at the Buxton ball field coaching young footballers of the Buxton United squad.
A few months ago, she came into contact with a player who at 14 had stopped attending school. Through counselling and other interventions, Sheron made it her duty to ensure that he returned to the classroom and today, he is enjoying school
“I know I am impacting big on most of their lives. I encourage them to have an education first, and find a balance between education and football,” Sheron explained.
She was presented with a certificate of appreciation for her dedicated service to the community by the late President Desmond Hoyte.
“The fact that I can have over 40 youngsters that I am able to take away from whatever misgiving they might be experiencing; take them away from crime; take them from probably an abusive home for a couple of hours keeps me going every single day. If I don’t show up early for training, about seven youngsters come to my home to know if there is training. There mere fact that they show appreciation for me every afternoon is a motivation to go,’ Sheron stated.
Sheron was born on Friday, February 7, 1969, the last of eight children to Sherley and Arthur Abrams. She grew up at Ogle Street, Friendship, where she currently resides. From an early age, Sheron embraced life in the village, swimming in Company Road trench and getting involved in sport.
“It was good,” she recalled through her famously wide smile.
She continued, “I love Buxton. I don’t think I could live anywhere else. We know that Buxton is a country area and Buxton is good. We used to play, get away to swim, get licks for swimming, but I would go back the next day. We played several games on the road or in a nearby plot of land which was empty. Those days were sweet.”
It wasn’t all fun and games growing up. Her single-parent mom was a strict disciplinarian who raised the family with a focus on education. Sheron attended the now Friendship Primary School and moved on to Bladen Hall Multilateral.
“I didn’t grow up with a father, but my late mom was the biggest influence on my life. She made tremendous sacrifices for her kids, because she worked hard to ensure we received an education and that was foremost in her mind. She has been the number one person in my life,” Sheron stated.
SPORT AT AN EARLY AGE
Sheron shares some successes in sport and has represented Guyana internationally at the Caribbean Badminton Championships in Trinidad and Tobago. Her siblings were also involved in sports and this fuelled healthy competition among them.
Sheron would secretly use her sister’s netball and ring in the family’s yard whenever she got the opportunity. It was this ball and netball hoop that led her involvement in basketball. She was also involved in cricket and volleyball.
While as a female she was heavily engaged in sport, she never faced the stereotype as some women in sport would face. Her family and villagers were supportive and encouraging of her quests to represent the village and Guyana at the highest levels of competition.
Sheron was also on the women’s national cricket team.
“When I started to play badminton, I had an uncle in England who would send me the rackets which were at the time very expensive. I always used to write a letter and ask for the rackets, because when I went to tournaments I couldn’t go with one racket, because these rackets…sometimes the strings would burst. I played cricket because my sister used to play cricket,” she noted.
According to Sheron, years ago, technology was limited and growing up, sport was big part of life.
“Today, because of the gadgets you would find children more not accepting to coming out to play sport. They have to love the sport. A child would prefer to be on a computer or on a tablet than to actually play the game now than during my time. If only they knew the kind of recreation you get and how it helps your body. It makes you a better person. I hope I can encourage more youths to come out and play,” Sheron reflected.
Buxton is traditionally known for two football teams, Buxton Stars and Buxton United. Over time, Buxton United became fractured and Sheron, who was an avid fan, became more involved in the team. She started as the Secretary for the club.
Ten years ago, Sheron took up the responsibility as coach of the team and her first tournament was against Alpha United in Georgetown.
“I was pretty nervous because of the scoreline at half time,” Sheron recalled.
Alpha had a 6-nil lead and the team from the East Coast appeared shell-shocked.
“I gave them a pep talk at half time that they were not invited to play in Georgetown for many years, because organizers thought that the teams from the country side were not good enough to compete with the teams from the city. I told them that if this is what we are going to do at a competition in Georgetown then the organizers were right not to invite us. We lost, but the final score was competitive, 6-5,” Sheron stated.
She said very early she realized that the odds were stacked against her as a woman in a sport considered ‘a man’s sport’. Sheron pursued football vigorously, taking up her first coaching course in 2006. Initially, there were some challenges, because although she had coached a few games, she had never played the sport.
“I never played football, so having to play the game was challenging, because when you go to coaching courses you have to play the game, but I did overcome them,” she said.
After 2006, she completed a series of other courses, including at the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) level. She is a certified D-Licensed coach and had the opportunity, in 2010, to witness the women’s U-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.
Sheron plans to pursue further coaching certification if the Guyana Football Federation provides the opportunity for her to do so.
She started a women’s team around 2009 with players who were fairly new to the game, but after a few losses, the team started to win. With the victories came interest from other clubs who attracted players from Sheron’s team.
She has restarted coaching females at Buxton Secondary School with hopes that in another year there will be the formation of a female team coming from the East Coast of Demerara.
Sheron is not too happy about the current management of football in Guyana.
“I wish and I hope that the powers that be will allow football and the players to be the winner, and not the administration. For the past three years, football has been declining all over, and I do hope that people would sit down seriously and consider the decisions that they make, how they make the decisions, who is involved in coaching, because I know for a fact that there a number of qualified coaches who are not involved nationally and when we do that, we hamper the progress Guyana can make.”
She noted that women are not treated equally and that too is a major problem.
“We should balance it for both men and women. We need more competition for the females. Football is not played on a regular basis for women, and because their training is not scheduled in a particular way you are not getting them out. We need more sponsors and money into women’s football. You will get better standard,” Sheron posited.
She pointed to the qualifiers that the women’s national team took part in as an example that if things were done differently, Guyana would have made it.
“Because we are not together as a team and playing regularly, you will find that the team is assembled on short notice and don’t get to practice together.”
Sheron became seriously sick in 2003 and feared not being able to continue coaching. She continues to heal and is still involved daily in the sport.
“I take things one day at a time. I am not a big planner. I am not an elaborate planner. I am a simple person. I go around doing things in the simplest of ways. Accept the challenges and try and overcome it. The sickness is still here, but I didn’t make the sickness overcome what I do. I ask for guidance, health and strength when I pray, and hope I can live on to do what I do and do it to the best of my abilities.”
Sickness aside, Sheron’s coaching was essentially grounded during the period when soldiers had moved into Buxton and there major security concerns that attracted national attention.
“Parents were scared to send their kids out. Football wasn’t playing; sport wasn’t playing. As soon as things quiet down and people started to come out, we had seminars where we addressed drugs, crime, school drop outs and teenage pregnancy. We tried our best to talk to our young people and let them know that whatever went on, there can be changes in their circumstances,” Sheron noted.
She knows that dozens of young footballers depend on her coaching and guidance.
“I know the impact on the life for some youngsters. It could have been different, but probably they were not guided in the right direction. Hopefully, as a club we can still guide and give them the pep talks about life. We do so on a constant basis. I hope that we wouldn’t see an upsurge in crime with many of the youngsters who are in a position to make different choices.”
Although she has worked to steer youth away from crime, this year she became a victim of a burglary committed by a 16-year-old who did not reside in Buxton. Her television and jewellery were stolen. Police reportedly caught the teen and charged him. Eventually, the case was dismissed, reportedly because the file in the case could not have been found when the case was called.
“I feel betrayed, because I expected better of the police…I know the young people in Buxton well and they wouldn’t risk it. I feel betrayed by the police and the justice system. It not about the case being dismissed alone, but although I have gotten back my television, I have not gotten back my jewellery. The case was dismissed,” Sheron said.
On a positive note, the coach is looking ahead to building a solid team through a restructuring process. Hopefully, she said, in the coming months there will be a properly managed football team coming out of Buxton.
“We have restructured the management system of the club. We now have a certified accountant. We hope that next year the club will enter the elite league competition locally,” Sheron stated emphatically.
She anticipates leaving a rich legacy.
“I must be able within another six years to produce one of the greatest footballers in Guyana, who would probably move on to play professionally somewhere. I just want one great footballer. Not two, not three, not four, nor five, just one.”