Gairy John is now a household name in the Chaguanas community in which his football academy provides an avenue and an opportunity for young boys and girls to develop their skills and use their spare time in a productive manner that brings joy to the community.
John, 51, is a real-life community sporting hero who continues to give his time, energy and lifestyle for the love and development of football.
John founded the Gairy John Coaching Clinic over 25 years ago and formalised the organisation in 2007.
His involvement in football started when he was as a student at the Cunupia Government Primary School and the Chaguanas Senior Comprehensive School (now Chaguanas Secondary). He later played for Las Lomas United FC, Caroni United FC and the T&T Fire Service FC.
John told Guardian Media that the idea for his school came when he realised that youths who needed training in football had to attend clinics and schools in north Trinidad, since there were very few places in Central that offered opportunities for football skills development in a community where cricket was the sport played by most people.
He said he could not have turned a blind-eye on natural talent and see youths go down the road making bad decisions because there was nothing to give them an avenue to develop their particular sporting interest, so he took the bold move and started the coaching clinic.
John, a firefighter by profession for 25 years, has always been a community-oriented individual. Needless to say, he has had the honour of developing the skills of hundreds of players who have passed through his clinic and gone on to play football for their schools, clubs and community teams throughout the years.
Among those who have had their skills honed via the coaching clinic were Michael Renaud, Andre Mohammed, LeRoy Whyle and female player Latisha John, who plays with Providence Girls' High School and the national Under-18 team.
John takes players from as young as five years, holds a vacation camp during the July-August vacation period and ensures the clinic participates in numerous age-group competitions and regional tournaments.
This year, the clinic will travel to Grenada from August 16 to participate in the Caribbean Children Charity Shield Classic.
John said one of the issues he has had over the years is that more people are not qualified as coaches but are finding themselves in positions where they are dealing with the young players.
"I would like to see more school teachers being exposed to training as football coaches and this will help in the development of the sport and benefit hundreds of young people of Trinidad and Tobago," John said.
"T&T needs to provide as much opportunities for our your people as possible so that they will not gravitate towards a negative lifestyle. I want to see the private sector partner with schools and football coaching clubs for the development of our youth and the sport."
The Oasis Gardens, Endeavour resident said T&T and Chaguanas is filled with talent and if steered in the right direction that talent will do the community and T&T proud.
John was also grateful to the Chaguanas Borough Corporation for its role in assisting the clinic through the maintenance of the Cunupia Recreation Ground, where activities are conducted on Saturdays and for their sponsorship of clinic activities.
Cunupia Councillor Vandana Mohit meanwhile said she was extremely happy that John had chosen to give back to his community.
Mohit said, "The clinic goes deeper than just providing training for young people in sports. Sport is where youths can feel wanted. Maslow's hierarchy of needs clearly shows that all people want to feel this sense of belonging. If we create a positive environment where youths can feel loved and needed."
SOURCE: T&T Guardian