A TEACHER, a supporter and a protector – these are but some of the roles retired T&T footballer and former men’s team captain Kenwyne Jones takes pride in when it comes to being a father. Newsday spoke with the 35-year-old who has had the experience of being a leader both on and off the pitch.
Jones was born in Point Fortin but grew up in La Brea. He said during his childhood, his own father Pamphille, along with other father figures, taught him the importance of a parent wanting the best for their children.
He said while he wasn’t against it, having children was not particularly a plan he had set in stone. And at age 18, he welcomed his first son. He said that moment was an “amazing feeling,” adding that he was elated to have “a piece of representation” of himself.
“It wasn’t a thought that I grew up with, like when kids say ‘When I grow up, I wanna have kids.’ But as soon as they came, I was elated. Being able to add experience, add knowledge on top of what I’ve learnt and had been learning along the way, to be able to pass on that to my child is something I enjoy doing every day.”
He now has a total of five children – two sons, ages 16 and eight, and three daughters – two 13-year-olds and a four-year-old.
He said he has always and will continue to emphasise to his children that they should follow their own dreams and not feel obligated to follow in his footsteps.
“I never grew up any of my kids into being pressurised because I played football. At the end of the day, I think the pressure of not being able to follow in footsteps or even take legacy further could be very damaging to an individual. I have seen it happen so I never wanted to place that kind of burden on my children. I did what I did because I wanted to do it, not because I had an uncle or a father that used to play. My father never pressured me into playing football even though he was a footballer.”
He added, “You have to understand that they are individuals and will possess different qualities, so you have to be able to take and love them for who they are.”
Jones headed to England in 2005 and played for Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Stoke City, Cardiff City and Bournemouth. His professional career stems back to around 2002 when he began playing with local club Joe Public (he also had stints with W Connection and Central FC), and he retired at age 32 in 2017.
He said it was difficult to balance being a parent and a professional footballer who was at the prime of his career.
“I’m the father that will make breakfast for you, say your prayers with you at night, be involved in your schoolwork, plays…But when you’re a professional at that level, a lot of that gets taken away from you because the schedule is so crazy. People don’t understand that, people think it’s all glamorous. But a lot of times you’re away from home so you get to miss out on a lot of stuff and it’s hard.”
He said since retiring, he has been “enjoying it so much” since he no longer has those time-consuming commitments.
“I’m able to see every step of the way which is important to me because I like to guide based on experience. I like to be there because I can understand where they are at in life.
“I like to see the “firsts.” I like to be part of it and sometimes engineer it. Something as simple as your kid’s first climb, first step, first words, first tooth coming out, anything I would deem a major milestone in a parent’s life and a child’s life. You’ll be on the road for like a week because you have two or three away games and you missed something like that. I missed simple things like being able to put them to bed at night, pick them up from school do homework for them. It truly bothered me at the time so it’s a lot of sacrifices you have to make. To some it may not seem like a major deal so to me it was very major.”
He said protecting his family was something he not only took seriously during his professional career, but it is something he continues to do.
“There’s a difference between protecting and hiding. I’ve always protected my family. You have to be very careful when it comes to children and I want my kids to grow up as normal as possible.”
Asked if there were children who viewed him as a father figure, he said yes as such instincts have become natural to him.
“It’s not something you go out there looking for, it’s something that comes to you. I just try to be myself and give the advice necessary.”
He added, though, “One thing I don’t do is cross boundaries unless I’m invited to. But at the same time, I try to be able to give comfort, educate, it’s just gonna be natural to have that happen.”
Asked if he plans to have more children, Jones made it clear: “Oh, no no no. I’m done. I am far by finished.”
But he is grateful for the extra time he is now able to spend with his family.
“The lessons we teach our children is what is going to shape us in the future. I wanna make sure I’m able to teach them and make them strong enough for the world they are about to face. Being a father is wonderful.
“I have enjoyed my professional career, yes but being able to enjoy something else other than the thing you do in your career is wonderful and I enjoy being able to raise my kids, to be there, to be able to see the characteristics coming out, see the things they pick up from to…It’s been no short of amazing, honestly.”