RSPL: Gleaner Coach of the Month - September: Omar 'Tiger' Edwards
Omar ‘Tiger’ Edwards is a man on a mission, and hardly anyone can begrudge whatever success he has had in the field.
Eight years ago, the then little-known coach took a decision that many would have considered madness. The 26-year-old first-time father decided to give up his permanent, paying job at Federated Pharmaceutical to take on the uncertainty of being an assistant coach for Jamaica‘s Under-17 team seeking to qualify for the 2011 World Cup in Mexico. He was only being given a stipend at the time.
“I had asked for leave of absence to go to Brazil with the team, and I was told by them that I would not be granted any time off. I chose football,” explained Edwards, who assisted Wendell Downswell.
“To some extent, it was difficult because I had to walk away from a paying job for a stipend, as I had a family to take care of. My child was just born at the time, but I was lucky to have the support of my lady and all my brothers,” Edwards added.
To many, that decision was madness, but for Edwards and his family, it was the only decision the football-obsessed man could make. The opportunity to be part of the national set-up was earned by Edwards topping the Jamaica Football Federation/UTech/JMMB Advanced Level II coaching course for the Corporate Area.
“People who had a different view would have seen coaches come and go, but I have learnt that fortune favours the brave, so there was no choice for me,” said Edwards, who helped the team to qualify for the World Cup and who has been climbing the coaching ladder ever since.
He took over a struggling Tivoli Gardens three years ago and has had them in the top six consistently. For the month of September, he led them to a 2-0 away win over Montego Bay United, a 2-1 win over Reno, and a 1-0 win over Dunbeholden to take his team to the top of the table and the distinction of being the only unbeaten team in the league.
Prior to that, he served as the youth coordinator for Boys’ Town, a position he took up at the age of 15 and served in for over a decade. In that time, he was a part of the journey that developed the likes of Marvin Morgan, Jamiel Hardware, Shamar Nicholson, Vishinul Harris and others.
The man who represented Dunoon Technical for three years in the Manning Cup was also coaching at the all-age level while still at Dunoon and wrote letters pretending to be his mother requesting permission for him to leave school early so he could take charge of his team on match days.
“What people consider a gamble is paying off, and I have no regrets. I have made Tivoli Gardens competitive again. People have confidence in the team. I have established a structure that works and have led them to back-to-back Jackie Bell titles. We are on the way up,” said the man who played Under-21 for Arnett Gardens and Super League for Boys’ Town.