IT has been a joy watching 18-year-old Jeano Henry, a rugby player with tremendous talent, evidence that Fair Helen is over-flowing with sporting talent despite debilitating circumstances emerging from COVID-19 and other factors.
A resident of La Clery, Castries, and a former student of the Sir Ira Simmons Secondary School Henry said he never opted to go to Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) after leaving Sir Ira earlier this year.
This VOICE reporter who has been keeping a close eye on a number of athletes for years caught up with the young man who is a member of the Speed Printing Survivors Club.
When asked in terms of how it all started for him in Rugby he said, “I always played hand ball during track and field training and that was always fun, so when my coach asked if I was interested in cross training with rugby I had few doubts that it would be filled with fun; track and field is my main sport and I compete in the 100/200 metres and the long jump. I also play football”
Where does he get the encouragement, he explained “My track coaches, Makeba Alcide and Latin Nicholson both play rugby and so it was something they suggested that some of the team members should try out because we are so fast and I have been playing ever since. I have only been playing for less than 3 months as a wing player and I love the sport. I love being competitive and I’m learning everyday”.
“I want to represent my country and fly the Saint Lucian flag high. Obviously I would love for it to be in track and field but I am just as dedicated to making it happen in rugby,” he said when asked about his dreams and goals.
“Since I am out of school, my goal is to get a scholarship to continue to get better at what I do,” he added.
When asked about moving from track and field to Rugby 7s he said “It was pretty easy; my first tournament was the Rogue’s 7s at the La Clery Playing Field. It was my first week of training for the sport, but I can already see my progress from day one till now”.
Asked whether he feels intimidated by the senior players and whom he most feared on the pitch; Jeano replied, “No I don’t feel intimidated by any of the senior players. The only two players I may think twice about going into a contact with are Saeed and Junior and they are both my teammates (Renegades)”.
He continued, “Since I’m one of the new kids on the block I had to assert my dominance very early and to be able to keep the senior guys at bay. I am definitely a target now, but as I continue to develop I am learning different ways to play the game”.
In terms of his confidence playing against Rogues, the triple champions, this is what he said, “
Rogues is the team to beat and I am pretty confident that my team (Renegades) will dominate against them. We are a fairly new team with some raw talented players. It’s a bit difficult gelling together against a team that is more seasoned and who knows how each other plays, but with time and more team bonding I know Renegades will dethrone Rogues sooner than leater”.
When asked what advice he has for a young aspiring rugby player male/female who is interested in playing the game, he replied, “For young players like myself I would say to have confidence in yourself, your ability and your team. Always work hard, and learn from your teammates and other players around you. Also to keep your head on solid, because in the heat of the moment things can cause you to lose focus, but the focus should always be to play the game with excellence”.
What about family support: “My family is very supportive. My mom Alberta Henry came to watch me at my second rugby tournament ever and I got tackled really hard. I got hit on my head. I really thought she would have told me to quit but she allowed me to continue and that means a lot,” he said.
Jeano took the time out to thank his coaches: Makeba Alcide and Latin Nicholson, (track and field) who both play rugby as well for Renegades; his teammates for allowing him the opportunity to develop as a player, and certainly he left the best for last, his family for their continued support.
Jeano is currently unemployed and is in search of employment. During his spare time he trains from Monday to Friday at the Mindoo Phillip Park (MPP) (track and field) and then goes to rugby training.
“I have been doing quite well just training for next season (2021) so I can make it to the Carifta Games and then the National Individual track and field championship and then qualify for the World Juniors,” he said.
This VOICE reporter also spoke to the SLRFU Technical Director, Trinidadian Wayne Pantor, about Jeano’s rugby abilities.
“Jeano has the potential to be a great candidate for our 7s Elite Programme as a crossover athlete. With his Track and field background he can transcend in the faster pace version of the game. Once he applies the basic fundamentals of the game to his speed work he should progress into the senior squad,” he said.
He added, “Also opening the opportunities of a Scholarship once he is balanced academically, as the SLRFU is selecting youth players for future qualifiers, for example the Youth Olympics Games, the Commonwealth Games and Pan American Games”.
When asked about what role will he play to ensure Jeano remains in the sport given the many distractions around for a young man?
Wayne replied: “Honestly, it’s a shortfall of most of the island sports in the context of proper support base for the youth on and off the field. In terms of development, nutrition, strength and conditioning and time management; setting realistic goals for their future, sometimes you have to have a plan B if the scholarship does not materialize or he suffers an injury. Plus you must factor in the social economics aspect”
He continued, “Its so much they can do on their own, plus they may belong to a low income household; so its the responsibility of the sports to operate as a buffer to get the athlete to mainly focus on performance, also creating a system of mentoring from senior players and athletes who have competed or attend schools abroad, its about the realistic up’s and downs and sacrifices etc”.
Said Wayne, “I saw him at a track and field meet held at Mindoo Phillip Park during the Covid period then I made contact with him thru another crossover athlete Makeba Alcide, inviting him to train with one of the local teams (Renegades) to see if he would be comfortable trying a new sport”.
“So after seeing him at a couple of the tournaments he can be described as a “diamond in the rough”, with some work and polishing he would be a gem player. As his reaction time etc are natural from the sporting background and his diagonal runs /change of directions are mirrored from a football background also”.
“Once he commits and put in the work he can excel in both sports as rugby would help with his muscle conditioning; and as indicated before he can multisport with minimum risk once its controlled and managed properly”.
“Trust the system, don’t rush the process, time to learn; time to experience and time to adapt,” noted Wayne.