Coach Braithwaite is an ordinary man doing extraordinary work

Dear Editor,

I am always looking for a positive story to write about Guyana; stories about ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things. I found one. But before I share the story about this extraordinary Guyanese, I want to share with you a story about an extraordinary American teenager: Anthony Borges.

When a gunman rampaged through a high school in Parkland, Fla, three weeks ago, a 15-year-old soccer player named Anthony Borges showed undaunted courage.

Anthony, who is of Venezuelan descent, apparently was the last of a group of students rushing into a classroom to seek refuge. He shut the door behind him and frantically tried to lock it, but in an instant the gunman appeared on the other side. Instead of running for cover, Anthony blocked the door to keep the shooter out. He held his ground even as the attacker opened fire.

Shot five times in the legs and torso, Anthony phoned his father to say that he had been wounded. He was rushed to a hospital. He still can’t walk — it’s unclear if that is just temporary — but fellow students say he saved their lives. No one else in that classroom was shot.

I was amazed and impressed by this teenager’s undaunted courage.

Editor, I’m very impressed with Gordon ‘Ultimate Warrior’ Braithwaite. Every day Coach Braithwaite spends countless hours teaching youths about life and football. Many of these players are fatherless, lacking love and direction in life.

To many of these boys, Coach is the only father figure in their lives. Had it not been for him, some of these boys would be in prison or dead. These players come from Albouystown, Agricola, Buxton and various parts of Georgetown. They have gone through many traumatic experiences: mother hooked on drugs, father incarcerated and gangs trying to recruit them to commit crimes. The only stability in their lives is instability. The only positive person in their lives is Coach. There’s no way to estimate the good Coach Braithwaite is doing in these teenagers’ lives.

In a country where it’s hard to find people who care about our young people, Coach Braithwaite’s love for these boys are undaunted and extraordinary. Coach Braithwaite is a thoughtful, intelligent man, and he knows the odds are stacked against his players. He also realizes that outside observers can’t fathom why he tried so hard to train the players.

Growing up, I remember Coach being very angry, aloft and arrogant as a player. He had a very bad temper and would throw tantrums on the football field. But today, Coach Braithwaite has mellowed. He has come a long way from the angry person he was.

What baffles me most about Coach is the respect the players have for him. These boys are not altar boys. Some of them are very hard core. And yet, these undisciplined and unlearned boys never unleash their anger on Coach or give him much rudeness. He commands respect. I don’t think anyone understands how much these boys are hurting and have been traumatized, except for Coach. He understands and feel their pain and painstakingly tries to help them to channel their pain into football and not into violence.

Why does Coach try to help these boys? I believe he sees himself in them. He can identify with their frustrations, pain, and anger. Some of them have dropped out of school and some would drop out tomorrow, if Coach was not encouraging them to stay in school. Every day he encourages them to get an education and to stay away from crime.

Coach went to school at Queen’s College so he knows the importance of a good education. He played football internationally and was one of Guyana’s brightest stars. He was an all ‘Guyanese,’ gifted academically and athletically.

But his downfall was that he didn’t have anyone to guide, coach or mentor him. If he did, he may have been selected to play for Chelsea Football Club in England. Editor, I am wondering if Coach is mentoring, coaching and guiding these boys today because no one was there for him when he needed them. And he doesn’t want what happened to him to happen to them.

Coach Braithwaite is truly an honourable and inspiring citizen. An ordinary man doing extraordinary work. Coach Braithwaite is showing undaunted courage and a tremendous amount of faith showing that these boys not only can be reached but also rehabilitated. I wish someone could help the Coach financially so that he could help more troubled boys.

Coach Braithwaite always ends every practice and game with a prayer and this slogan: Discipline, Dedication, Determination.

Yours faithfully,

Anthony Pantlitz

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