What does Javon Francis, Warren Weir, Ramone McKenzie, Jason Livermore and Javan Hardware all have in common? Of course they are all successful products of the Calabar track program but they also have in common a mentor and friend, Andrea Hardware.
Andrea is Team Manager of the Calabar High School Track Team. In that role she leads the team of parents, old boys and other well-wishers who provide critical support to enable our young men to excel.
Track fans will see her on the sidelines at every track meet. She can be found organising food, hydration, academic and general support for the boys.
Many know that it is a family affair for her - she has guided her own son, Javon Hardware, and is now guiding her grandson, Dejour Russell, through the Calabar track program.
Today we acknowledge her efforts as part of Calabar’s success story.
Always passionate about sports
Andrea, a past student of Merl Grove High School, has always been passionate about sports. From her playing days she represented her school at netball and later continued playing netball all the way to the club league level.
Today she muses that with a but more support and exposure her own athletic endeavours may have continued longer and produced even greater results.
Later, she married into a sporting family, of which, two brothers represented Jamaica in football.
Her sojourn at Calabar started in 2005 when her son Javon Hardware began representing the school. She indicated her interest in becoming involved and at the start of the 2006 season she got a call from head coach Michael Clarke asking for assistance. She immediately became heavily involved in the behind-the-scenes support for the team.
The life of a dedicated track supporter is very demanding. During track season Andrea’s Saturday mornings begin at 3:00am when she awakes to begin preparing breakfast for the young men in her charge. It is her philosophy that a boy should not be late for training or a track meet because he had to wait on breakfast at home.
Weekdays are equally busy, as after a full 8-hour day in her regular job she then makes her way to the National Stadium to oversee training with the team.
She shares with us that her own personal life takes a back-seat during the track season.
Andrea takes great pride in the results that her efforts have produced. She considers her sacrifices well worth it as she watches the young men shine and excel on the local and world stage. One of her favorite memories is watching Warren Weir secure a bronze medal in the 200m at the 2012 London Olympics and later at the 2013 World Championships, it was Javon Francis’ turn. Who can forget that memorable run.
Other standout performers over the years have been, Ramone McKenzie, Oshane Bailey, Jason Livermore, Adrian and Andrew Riley, Travis Riley, Demar Robinson; too many to mention. To that list she adds current team members Michael Ohara, Tyreke Wilson, Christopher Taylor, Dejour Russell and Anthony Danvern, who after he lost his spikes in the Class 3 1500 metres last year Champs continued running and came in fourth. And who could forget Jovan Swaby, competing with a broken arm, came in second in the Class 1, high jump at Champs 2013.
As Team Manager she is ably supported by a dedicated bunch of parents, old-boys and others who make up the core management team. She lists a few as: her own daughter Annecia “Shauna” Hardware, Simone Wardlow, Lorraine McKenzie, Indra Chen, Lorna Green, Melvina “Mel” Gordon, Richard “Fretta” Parchment, Ewan Shaw, Drs Walcott and Morrison, Donald Chin, Sophia “Pinchy” Smith and Phillip Williams. She also pays tribute to COBA, including the New York, Canada, South Florida and UK chapters for the support given over the years.
The team oversees the support for the track boys. They identify the boys who may be socially, financially an academically challenged and provide them with assistance. Some boys are taken into the homes of management team members and are exposed in ways that their previous circumstances would not allow. In this way the boys get direct supervision and mentorship to achieve their objectives.
The biggest challenge for the Management team is fundraising. A number of initiatives are undertaken throughout the year to fund the programme. Andrea’s appeal is for the Calabar family and supporters to give tangibly to the program. All assistance is appreciated.
There are many who are not aware of the academic support which is provided for the members of the Track team. Andrea reminds all that the boys are told from the start that they are at Calabar to receive an education and that without good grades they will not be allowed to compete.
She declares that extra classes are the key to success. In that regard she acknowledges old boys generally and COBA in particular, for providing support for extra classes for the boys. She also mentions Principal Albert Corcho who gives strong support. In 2014 he travelled to Philadelphia with the Penn Relays team and while there conducted revision sessions with the boys, particularly those preparing for CSEC exams that year.
The team attends a 3-week in-house camp during the Christmas holidays each year. During this period specialised attention is provided to support their learning. Weaker students are identified for additional assistance.
Academic support also extends to supporting boys with mentoring, homework supervision and assisting with School-Based Assessments (SBAs) to meet CXC requirements.
Andrea is proud of the fact that a number of graduates of the track programme have been able to meet the academic requirements to enter universities locally and overseas.
Special concern for boys
Andrea confesses to having a soft spot for boys. She stresses that young men in our society are marginalised and prone to underachieve if the proper guidance is not provided. She sees her role as a mentor and friend to them. She recommends that teachers and others take the time to understand the boys in order to better relate to them and get them performing at their best.
Our interview takes place at a time when there is current debate around Jamaican high school circles about the recruitment of students to represent schools at sports.
Within the last two weeks the Jamaican Ministry of Education has agreed new guidelines with the Inter-Schools Sports Association (ISSA) which address how students may be transferred between institutions.
Andrea shares with us her conviction that the focus has to be on what is in the best interest of the child. As a parent of student athlete herself she sees no issues with a parent who makes that choice for their child. She also supports the free movement to schools which support the particular talent of each child, whether that talent is in sports or academics.
We were not able to pry a prediction out of Andrea. Carefully she avoided giving any specific expectations. However, she acknowledged that we do have a good team, all are training well, issues are being managed well and hopes are high.
Her guarded response is well-grounded. She reflects on Champs 2009 when the Calabar team failed to win despite all expectations being for a successful Champs campaign. She recalls being physically ill for two weeks after Champs because of the disappointment.
For her, Champs is won on Saturday night and only after the final event will she finally breathe a sigh of relief.
COBA joins with her and hope to be celebrating on March 28 when the Mortimer Geddes trophy returns to Red Hills Road for what will be a fourth consective year.
To Andrea Hardware COBA says well done and we continue to rely on her strong support to ensure our continued success.