Yen’s prodigies can develop into champs

Coaching can be a thankless job. Years of honing the skills of a sportsman or woman can go into making them a success and the coach often gets little or no credit for doing so. They deserve their props too.


Yen only coaches part-time Photo: Ron Shillingford

One of the most unheralded sports coaches in Grand Cayman must be Tyrone Yen. Now he definitely deserves highlighting for his tireless endeavours.

Born in Jamaica, his father is Japanese, hence the surname. He’s been here since 1991 working for the Cayman government in the national archives. Yen is also a part-time athletics coach which seems to take up all his spare time. Never a track star in Jamaica, he did a bit of high school running before quitting to concentrate on football, but all along he had a passion to coach track and field and in 2001 the Level 1 coaches course was made available to anyone wishing to get the qualification.

Bernie Bush was president of the Cayman Islands Athletic Association then and trying to raise the standard of participation and coaching. Yen was successful and went on to take his Level 2 in Puerto Rico at the Regional Development Centre, specialising in long, high and triple jump and also pole vault.

‘Ever since then I haven’t quit. I have a passion for it and I think that there is the potential for a lot of world class athletes in the Cayman Islands. There are some things that still need to be put in place both from an administrative stand point and, of course, athletes have their issues because keeping them focused is a difficult thing for me. Teenagers all around, it’s not just here.

‘I don’t really have a problem with them partying and going out, it’s them doing different sports and having different interests. There’s the PlayStation, television and the internet which seems to occupy 90 per cent of these kids play time.’

He coaches predominately eight to 15-year-olds before handing them over to senior coach Kenrick Williams. Best of Yen’s bunch is sprinter Chantelle Morrison, the Caribbean Under-15s 100 metres champion. Considering Jamaica, Trinidad and the Bahamas have formidable sprint squads, that is a huge accomplishment for someone who still has two years in this age bracket. Even the Americans rank her No.1. Yen, 42, hopes Morrison will be ready for the London Olympics.

‘Chantelle has been doing track since primary school. It’s great that we’ve still got her because a lot come through then fall through the cracks but she’s endured. She’s already quite an accomplished athlete for her age. She’s definitely a sprinter, no doubt about it. She has held numerous records already in the United States. Last year and the year before she was ranked No.1 thereā€¦ The accolades go on and on.

‘She will be 18 for London. Not an ideal age but she can go for the experience. We have big hopes for her and there are a lot more promising athletes. This year was really a good one for me to see at least seven of the athletes who came through the primary school system qualify for the Carifta Games. One of the highlights for me was the girls U-17s relay team. Having two 13-year-olds and two 15-year-olds making the final and running 49.27 seconds was really good. I’ve got a great core of athletes.

Morrison says: ‘When I won the Carifta Championships I was over excited because I didn’t believe I could win it. They were all bigger and taller than me. I would love to be a professional athlete and go to the Olympics. That’s why I go to the gym a lot, to do weights to build up my muscles. Coach Tyrone inspires me. I also look up to Cydonie Mothersill very much because she’s gone so far and goes to all the big meets.’

Bernie Bush has enormous respect for Yen. ‘Tyrone is married to a Caymanian and he’s been here for a while and I knew him through football. Every time I asked him for help when I was president of the athletic association and rebuilding that programme, he was always willing. I was a coach as well those times and he would say things to me that he was picking up on, yet he’d had no previous coaching experience.

‘So then I sent him off to train to get his Level 1 and 2 and he has been one of the best investments that the athletic associations have ever made as far as I’m personally concerned. His dedication is awesome. I don’t think there’s any other coach in the Cayman Islands who could give you details four and five years back on an athlete as much as Tyrone can. He is very meticulous with recording and his dedication. One of his strengths is if you see something and you go and give him constructive criticism he never takes it personally and always says thank you and you see him try to implement it.

‘The one thing that I’ve tried to understand is why we’ve not been able to get him full-time into government ahead of other people because his dedication is unparalleled. I’ve seen him in his own holiday time and off-season coaching kids. Even with the women’s programme in soccer he has been working with some of the girls on their running technique in his spare time. That’s how dedicated he is. He is one of the best, if not the best coach in Grand Cayman.’

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