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Injured coach sees team through

Randy Bennett

Injured coach sees  team through

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NO AMOUNT OF pain could keep him away from his love for athletics.
And neither Samuel Payne nor his students at St Leonard’s Boys’ would have it any other way.
Just days before the Powerade Barbados Secondary Schools Athletic Championships (BSSAC) was scheduled to begin last month, Payne, a physical education teacher at the island’s lone male secondary school, was going through one of his usual demonstrations when something went terribly wrong.
“I was showing them the correct technique for the high jump one evening at practice and I ended up tearing my ACL tendon in my left leg.
“On the approach I slipped and my knee just collapsed,” Payne, who has been teaching at the school for two years told the SUNDAY SUN from his wheelchair during an interview at the National Stadium recently.
The injury resulted in Payne, a former national triple jumper, having to undergo reconstructive surgery. He will have to use a wheelchair for the next three months. But despite his evident pain and discomfort, it never crossed his mind that he would be absent when his charges took to the track and field for the five-day meet.
The injury forced him to miss some of his training sessions, but with the use of technology, Payne made sure to keep in constant contact with his athletes.
“To be honest some of the boys were a little down that I got hurt, and they thought that I would have to miss BSSAC . . . but I made it a priority to come here and support the boys.” he said.
“But I knew that although I was injured I had to find a way to be there for them. So I created a Whatsapp group where I sent them training programmes, to make sure that they would still be practicing even though I wasn’t there.
“It allowed them to train in groups and I also named group leaders . . . teachers even came and told me that since they started training together they were getting closer, and it was developing a sort of unity among the boys,” Payne added.
Despite needing someone constantly at his side to help him navigate around the grounds of the National Stadium, the CARIFTA bronze medallist made sure to be present for every one of his athletes’ events.
Therefore it came as no surprise when Payne was overjoyed upon hearing Antoine Lawerence had copped gold in the Under-20 boys’ triple jump.
For him, it was one of his crowning moments of the Championships.
“He has been working with me for the past two years . . . but from the time I came to the school, although he was short, he wanted to learn how to jump.
“So I got him into a jump programme which included a lot of plyometrics and a lot of gym work, and from my history of jumping I gave him some insights into what I did,” Payne explained.
“From the time he went on the programme he started to fly. I brought him into the triple jump, and once we ironed out a little issue he was having with his run up, it was just a matter of him coming out here and executing.”
Asked about what brought him to be a physical education teacher and an athletics coach, Payne said that after spending roughly about 15 years representing Barbados at various levels, it just seemed like the perfect step to make.
The 32 year-old maintained that having devoted almost half of his life to track and field, he just could not see a future where he was doing anything else.
“I told myself that after putting so much time into the sport, there was only one place where I could go from here.”
“You find yourself in a position where you know so much about the sport already, that coaching naturally becomes the next best thing.”
However, the dreadlocked coach who spent several years in Cuba training, was highly critical of those people who, having received much assistance  from Barbados during their young careers, chose to go overseas and work.
He acknowledged that having qualified and experienced coaches was a necessity if Barbados was to reap the best from its current crop of young and talented athletes.
“Most athletes when they get a scholarship, they go overseas and they don’t come back.
“But when you go into coaching, and you get your degree, you should come back and give and help to develop what had helped you to develop yourself,” Payne suggested.
“Why after being an athlete for so many years, where you would have gone to CARIFTA and CAC Games, and numerous other competitions, why then would you want to go to America and help to coach and develop their athletes, when you can do the same thing here in Barbados?”
And while he agreed education was important, Payne argued that sport could also be used to help athletes reach their goals.
He complained that not all students were academically inclined, but once they remained focused and dedicated to their sports, they could still be very successful.
“Use sports as a medium to get them further. A lot of people believe education is the only way out but sports have a lot of benefits as well.
“It doesn’t only keep you fit, but it takes you to a lot of different places,” Payne contended.
For now though, Payne is just counting down the days until he has fully recovered, when he can get back to doing what he does best – coaching.
“As soon as this injury is healed, I will be back out training. My boys are eager, and I intend to carry them to higher heights,” the smiling coach said.