Wed, Jun


He will be remembered and respected by most as the man who coached the St Anthony’s College Tigers to eight national secondary school football titles. Nigel ‘Grovy” Grosvenor was much more than that. He was a family man, disciplinarian, educator, business owner, and investor.

The last one had nothing to do with money. He invested in youth and their development, helped mould those who had disciplinary problems into outstanding young men, and helped turn footballers with potential into professionals and scholars. He walked with a swagger; a limp that ended his promising football career more than four decades ago. Still, he used that knowledge gained in his youth, not to live vicariously through his charges, but to help them to become winners on and off the field, and to live their dreams.

Ricky Aleong, Carlos Edwards, Kevin Pierre, Marvin Gollop, Randy Samaroo, Kevin Pinder, Gary Gibbons, Sean Cooper, Mikeil Germain, Kenwyne Jones, Julius James, Dwight Ceballo, Moriba Ballah, Yohance Marshall, Uriah Bentick, Mekeil Williams, Micah Lewis and Qian Grosvenor—son of the now late, legendary youth coach—and so many more young men (too many to name here) came to the school with potential and left with confidence and promise for the future.

That was his job. Yet, to Nigel Grosvenor, it was his mission to turn precocious and mischievous teens into responsible young men who aspired to greater things in life. As a proud St Anthony’s alum, who admittedly was never close to being good enough with a football to sit on the floor next to the bench in any of his Tigers teams, I saw the transformation of many students under the guidance of ‘Grovy’.

More than just a coach and teacher

I had to leave the school to understand the real impact of our coach, and to understand that he was more than a football-winning trainer/PE teacher and disciplinarian. I hasten to say this change in perspective saw us develop a friendship and a greater level of mutual respect despite the generation gap between us.

What I want most for the memory of Nigel Grosvenor is for others to recognise that his legacy was not about football, the sport he loved and devoted his life to—it was about the young men whose lives he had a chance to impact. He supported those who were talented but less fortunate, often out of his own pocket. He was a father-figure when needed, and a friend when necessary. The entire school respected him and admired him and he was well loved by most of the players who joined his teams. He wanted to see them grow and enjoy the opportunities the game offered, and he wanted to see them mature into decent young men that he could boast about with pride. Even more, he wanted to see all the students succeed, even if they had no football talent whatsoever. As a PE teacher, he made sure, though, that every single student—even the one in the wheelchair—became more than acquainted with a football. Perhaps he was secretly scouting… I have no idea, and I never had the brain to ask him. Maybe this had a subconscious influence on my choice of career path as a sport journalist, which I enjoyed for over 12 years.

I can demonstrate his dedication with the story of Martin Anatol, a gifted young St Anthony’s star with a promising life ahead of him. While studying abroad, Martin tragically drowned. Yet he stayed in the memories of Tigers decades later, as up to the time when Grovy was rumoured to have been forced to leave the school, he had religiously and faithfully hosted the Martin Anatol Memorial… a tribute to a former Tiger that brought ex-footballers and students from every walk of life back to the place where it all began to remember their comrade and share in the camaraderie that makes this school special to me two decades after I said goodbye to its classrooms.

Founded St Anthony’s football programme

I know, because of his success, many, both within and without the school football system, questioned his intentions with rumours that Grovy recruited players to St Anthony’s with gifts and promises to get his school to win titles. It is my firm belief that those claims are spurious, and without merit or basis. For those who didn’t know, Grovy was not a big-name coach hired by the school to win titles. He was the founder of the school’s football programme, a PE teacher, and a school dean. What he got out of the game was knowing his players’ lives would never be the same. He even confided in me that it pained him that those accusations had been levied at him. Yet even knowing my status as a journalist with the Trinidad Express at that time, the friendship we developed over my career, and the influence of what the newspaper printed, he never asked me to print a story in his favour to address his concerns.

In truth, Grovy was St Anthony’s, and St Anthony’s was Grovy. In his last couple of seasons before leaving the game behind in 2018, he took over the football programme at QRC. Mr Grosvenor—only teachers called him that at school as a courtesy; he was plain Grovy to just about everyone—hated losing, but I’m sure his losses to the Tigers carried with it just a tinge of consolation. After all, he was the man with whom it all began, so maybe it wasn’t as difficult to lose to the team he loved.

The quintessential ‘Tiger’

His vision for the school showed in the name he himself gave us -- Tigers. He did it so the students would look at themselves with pride, and know that they were tigers. That they had something great within, had a destiny and the ability to succeed, that they represented a great institution, and that they could create a reputation for themselves that other schools would respect. It took him 13 years to win that first title during my Fifth Form experience.

I will never forget that night in 1997 at Queen’s Park Oval; the jubilation of the school, the feeling of conquest and excellence, the celebrations that went on late into the night, and the calm, relief, and joy emanating from Grovy in the wake of that hard fought 2-1 InterCol final victory over St Benedict’s on goals from Edwards and Cooper. That was only the beginning of things for St Anthony’s. In 2002, he became the first coach to have a team unbeaten throughout the school football season, a solitary draw vs longtime rivals St Mary’s College is the lone blemish.

But I will most of all remember Grovy the man—the friend who sat on the bench after games to talk to a cub reporter about anything but himself or his team being in the news, who was proud of what I had accomplished when I felt I had not even begun to achieve anything, the one who asked for no publicity, the one whose pride and passion over 35 years was in the young men that wore the white and khaki with the promise of “Service to All”. My heart goes out to his loved ones as they mourn his loss. I believe, though, that his is a life to celebrate. Rest well, Grovy, and thank you for everything. You are a bigger legend than you ever knew. The quintessential Tiger.

—Kern De Freitas is a former Express journalist and past student of St Anthony’s College

SOURCE: T&T Express

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