Committed to country - RJRGLEANER award recipient Whitmore outlines dedication to Reggae Boyz cause
Whether he was putting on the national colours during his decade-long career as a player or screaming instructions from the sidelines as a coach, Theodore Whitmore’s only objective was to make his country proud.
Both contributions were recognised on Friday, as the national senior men’s head coach was one of five awardees presented with the Certificate of Merit at the RJRGLEANER Sports Foundation National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards.
The ceremony this year, because of COVID-19 concerns, was a departure from the traditional norms, with the major individual honours not recognised.
Nevertheless, the scaling down of the ceremony has not diminished Whitmore’s appreciation for the recognition, as he underlined that his love for the sport has been the centre of his commitment to his current job and to his long-term goals for the Reggae Boyz.
“It’s the love for the game. We grow up playing and again there comes a time where you have to move on, you venture into coaching. [Through] hard times, I give it 110 per cent despite [everything],” Whitmore told The Sunday Gleaner. “This is nothing new, but personally, I just want to remain positive and do the best for my country.”
After retiring as a player, his managerial journey began in 2006 at Montego Bay United (formerly Seba United) before being brought on to the Reggae Boyz staff as interim manager a year later. He would not get the job full-time until 2009, following the departure of John Barnes and, before him, Rene Simoes, who coached him during their historic 1998 World Cup campaign, where he scored two goals against Japan in a 2-1 win for Jamaica at the tournament in France.
It’s a journey that hasn’t always been smooth, from disagreements with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) over contracts to the unceremonious end to one of his earlier spells in 2013.
Twelve years later, he is in his second reign with the senior men’s team, focused on the final round of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, which begin in September. Along the way he has guided the team to the Gold Cup final in 2017 and consecutive semi-finals in 2017 and 2019.
He celebrated his 100th game in charge on November 17 in style, as Jamaica defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1, his 52nd victory, which brings him four wins away from surpassing Simoes (55) as the winningest coach in Reggae Boyz history.
Nevertheless Whitmore, while accepting the individual recognition, pointed out that he is focused on the bigger picture.
“It’s a great achievement, it’s a great milestone, but I’m looking beyond (that) because the sky is the limit. We don’t want to limit [ourselves] to go past a Rene Simoes. We just want to work and continue to make our country proud,” Whitmore said.
That process will continue during what should be a busy year for the Boyz, with the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup also on the schedule.
Whitmore says that he is determined to continue to give his best to the national team, as he looks to fulfil what he believes is his greater purpose.
“I’m here for a purpose. I’m here to serve and that’s what I love to do, and that’s what I’ll continue to do as long as life is in my body. As long as I’m here, I’m going to continue,” Whitmore said.
Grantley Reid, Dennis May, Dr Kevin Jones and Suzanne Harris-Henry were the other recipients of the Certificate of Merit.
Also among the award recipients is three-time Olympian Vilma Charlton, who won the Chairman’s Award for her service to athletics. Her decades-long commitment to track and field included stints in administration as a former vice-president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association and former president of the Olympians Association of Jamaica.
Additionally, retired cricket umpire Steve Bucknor was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his more than three-decade contribution to the sport. His career included officiating in over 100 Tests and One-Day International matches, as well as five consecutive Cricket World Cup finals from 1992 to 2007.