Coach Donnie Knowles, has been honoured for his contribution to sports in The Bahamas by the Kamalamee organization. Although I could not be at his honouring at an event at the Regency Theatre on October 27th, I was asked to put together some words and a video presentation of same for the event. Here are my remarks:
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 along with my 12 yr old daughter in the Grand Bahama Football League, which sadly, no longer exists. Knowles' Predators were undefeated throughout their years of play in the GBFL and he took them to 5 national championships. In service to his country he was called to head coach and assist in coaching the Women’s National Team for both World Cup and Olympic qualifiers.
One night after a soccer meeting, Donnie shared with me his vision of starting a girls soccer league. Mary was very busy at the time teaching school by day and studying by night to further her degree; so I offered to help him fulfill that dream. I assisted him in forming the Coca-cola Crushers with two of my daughters on the team. For the first time the GBFL had an all-youth girls’ team, and they won many games too! Donnie worked hard coaching two teams in tandem. Each time he took on a new initiative, all of ‘his girls’ grew along with him. We knew we had to share a coach, and through that, many of us stepped up our game and helped. And if that wasn’t enough, while he was coaching 2 teams he was playing in the men’s league and helping run 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 over 11 years ago. The love and skills he had instilled in his players over the years, came back in spades when many of us joined as coaches 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’ as we’d be at the field at 7am for Predators shooting practice; then coached mornings at the YMCA league, shove down a quick lunch, and then rushed over to the Girls’ program to coach for the afternoon.
Coaching in two Saturday leagues soon became impossible for him as the girls’ program grew exponentially, and today it boasts almost 300 players and 4 divisions. If you pass by the Freeport Rugby Football Club on Saturday mornings, you'll still see Donnie Knowles, and a few soccer dads or coaches, busy setting up over 10 fields for his Grand Bahama Girls' Soccer League. All this he does while managing his busy Saturday business at Town and Country.
What is his recipe for success? Well some say it’s because he has always had the best players, but in actual fact it’s because he’s 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. He’s always instilled life skills along with soccer skills, and after all, isn't teamwork what life is really all about? Coaching, is teaching, training or developing a process while achieving a specific personal or professional result or goal. Donnie Knowles used to be captain of the Aquinas Boys College Soccer Team; he played in 3 Bahamas Games for Grand Bahama; he was a Bahamas National Team player; and he even got a taste of the Premier League in Scotland and England until he broke his knee before signing the big contract. Just look at how far he’s come, and what one man has accomplished!
Donnie and Mary have none of their own birth children, but 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 honoured as cherished members of many soccer families.
My friend, and you’ll always be my Coach, your 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!