Coach Donnie Knowles, has been honoured for his contribution to sports in The Bahamas by the Kamalamee organization. Although I could not be at the honouring event at the Regency Theatre on October 27th, I was asked to provide remarks, and a video presentation (see my link at bottom).
I met Donnie and Mary Knowles the first year I moved to Grand Bahama in 1998. I fulfilled a life-long dream of playing soccer when I joined his team The Predators in the Grand Bahama Football League, which sadly, no longer exists. The Predators were undefeated in the GBFL and Knowles took them to 5 national championships.
What was his recipe for success? Well some say it’s because he always had the best players, but in actual fact – it’s because he has always been, the best coach. He is strong in his disciplinary actions, but always wields a loving approach, and his girls feel it and respect him for it.
One night after a soccer meeting, Donnie shared with me his vision of starting a girls’ league. Mary was teaching school by day and studying by night to further her degree; so I offered to help him get started on that dream. We formed the Coca-Cola Crushers and for the first time the GBFL had an All-Youth girls’ team. Donnie worked hard coaching 2 teams in tandem. And if that wasn’t enough, he was also playing in the men’s league, and leading the GBFL.
“Behind every great man, is a great woman.” As soon as Mary completed her studies, the Grand Bahama Girls’ Soccer Developmental League was born. The love and skills he had instilled in his players, came back in spades when many of us joined to coach in the new league. Those were humble beginnings and Donnie still coached at the YMCA programme that first year. I used to call it ‘Soccer Saturdays’ – Predators were at the field for 7am shooting practice, coached morning at the Y, shoved down lunch, and then rush over to the Girls’ program for the afternoon.
Today his girls program boasts almost 300 players and 5 divisions. After 11 years, if you pass by the Freeport Rugby Football Club on Saturday mornings, you’ll still see Donnie Knowles, busy setting up over 10 fields for his Grand Bahama Girls’ Soccer League
But before he became the Coach Donnie that we know today, in his youth, Donnie was the soccer team captain at Aquinas Boys College; he played in 3 Bahamas Games for Grand Bahama Island; he was a Bahamas National Team player; and he even got a taste of the pro leagues in Scotland and England until he broke his leg before signing the big contract. During his coaching years he was called to both head coach and be an assistant coach to the Bahamas Women’s National Team for both World Cup and Olympic qualifiers. Just look at how far he’s come, and what one man has accomplished, to the benefit of his island and his country!
“Coaching, is teaching, training or developing a process while achieving a specific personal or professional result or goal.” I believe he’s reached his goal! His vision has become a reality.
Coach Donnie and Coach Mary have always instilled ‘life skills’ along with ‘soccer skills’, and after all, isn’t “teamwork” what life is really all about?
Although they have no children of their own, in actual fact they’ve raised hundreds and hundreds of girls through their love, discipline, and soccer success. Today they are invited to weddings and graduations, and are cherished members, of many soccer families.
My friend, and you will always be ‘MY Coach’, you are so very deserving of this Kamalamee Honour for your contribution to Sports in The Bahamas. You exemplify the best in coaching and mentoring, and remind us, of what community spirit truly is.
My family sends you Cyber Hugs from Canada!
(Children: coach / ref / player, Loryn Blower; coach Nathen Blower; player Tohni Blower; and player Jackie Blower)