‛Gabby’ Hart: the only man unimpressed with 19-0
Today is a very sad day for me, along with the former students that attended in the 1960s and 1970s, the Churchill School, Robert Crawford and the former Prospect Boys Secondary School — also known as Cunningham’s School — as we learn about the untimely death of our former teacher Earl Hart.
I feel compelled to pay tribute to Mr. Hart with some guilt attached because I was impressed about a month ago to pay tribute to him while he was alive as a way of thanking him through the media for the positive influence that he had over us as our teacher and athletic coach — be it football, cricket, cross country or track and field.
Now I understand why I was to do it at that particular time. Lesson well learnt.
Mr Hart was given the grim task of shaping and nurturing a school of boys with many personal issues that arrived at school with us. Many of us had low self-esteem and believed in the label that was given to us — that we would not amount to anything and that we were just a concentration camp that was housing future criminals.
With the help of teachers such as Mr Hart, we have seen a world icon in football, my pal Clyde Best, a former police commissioner in Carlton Adams, a union president in Chris Furbert, a pastor in Ronnie Smith (deceased), a Member of Parliament in Derrick Burgess. The list goes on. I am very confident to say that Mr Hart in some way touched the lives of these individuals. He was well respected by all staff, faculty and students.
The students saw in him that teaching was not just collecting a paycheque, but a committed teacher who wanted to help every student to become somebody in our island society, no matter which part of the country we were from.
He not only coached athletes on the playing field, but he also was concerned about the student's vulnerability as individuals in the real world.
Many times he would take us aside and lecture us about keeping up with our classroom work and he would often threaten us with omitting us from the team if we were not pulling our weight in the classroom.
Mr Hart sacrificed many hours after school training us on the football pitch at Frog Lane Field. And he could be seen after training walking home, as he was without transportation.
I thank him for pushing us outside of our comfort zones in order to show us that sometimes our comfort zones are hurting us and as athletes we have the potential to become great.
Mr Hart forced us to be team players and to truly understand the importance of trusting one another, both on and off the field.
I thank him for yelling at us when we deserved to be yelled at in order to get us to push harder.
I can recall the yelling taking place after the completion of a school league football match against minnows Kindley High School at their field. We handsomely (so we thought) defeated them 19-0. But Mr Hart was not happy with the result. He informed us that we should have scored much more goals and that he expected us to improve 100 per cent when we face them again at Frog Lane Field.
Finally the match day arrived. We ended up beating them 32-0 and I was the only member on my team that did not score a goal. Even our goalkeeper Sheldon “Bully Beef” Bradshaw scored a goal.
As I recall, Clyde Best scored at least 19 goals and the late James Parsons was close to double figures as well, and everyone else chipped in with goals.
Now if you go on the internet you'll see that the most registered goals that were scored in a game is 31-0. We unofficially made history.
We all learnt a valuable lesson from that game. Mr Hart gave us a two-second grin and a pat on the back. The lesson? Always listen and do what your coach asks of you, and you'll get a smile from him.
I thank Mr Hart for allowing us to get frustrated and learn how to deal with aggravation in a classy way. For he taught us how to turn our failures into learning opportunities that would allow us to improve. He counted on us even when we were not sure we could count on ourselves. Many times he would pull us aside and would ask us if everything was OK when we seemed off or unfocused. It really showed us that he cared about our wellbeing outside of the athletic world.
He never gave up on us, even when our inappropriate attitudes deserved us a seat on the bench.
Mr Hart pounded confidence into us and omitted the word “can't” from the English vocabulary. I thank him for making us repeat drills and set plays over and over and over until we perfected them because only perfect practice makes perfect.
He pushed us to our limits, yet always knowing our breaking points and respecting them. He also showed us his lighter side of things, too. I can remember when Clyde Best, Sheldon Bradshaw and myself respectfully reminded him about the time when his team, Young Men Social Club, were in the process of defeating the mighty West End Rovers in Somerset. The crowd was about 2,000-plus. During the closing minutes of the match, Social Club were awarded a corner at the northern end of the field — the Amos Lopes garden end. For some unknown reason, Mr Hart decided that he would jump up and hang on the crossbar of the goal before the corner kick was taken.
He ended up cracking the crossbar. The referee decided to have the crossbar tied up with a piece of rope.
The referee decided to restart the game but the home supporters would have none of that, so they tore down the entire crossbar. After incidents involving players and both sets of supporters, the game was abandoned.
After being reminded of this incident, Mr Hart just laughed and shook his head.
Thank you, Mr Hart, for touching the lives of so many of your students on this our Island home.
How can we forget what the Almighty Father allowed you to do for us!
Gone but not forgotten!
CLARENCE "CHIPPER“ ”SYMO“ SYMONDS