It’s a little-known fact that Barbados is renowned as the official birthplace of Caribbean rugby, with competitive matches between British troops said to date back as far as the early 1900s.
Since the 1960s, the national development of the sport has been guided by the Barbados Rugby Football Union (BRFU) – from humble beginnings as a single team to now boasting a strong national men’s and women’s field presence at a variety of top-class international rugby tournaments, including Rugby Americas North (RAN).
Barbados’ most prominent rugby player is senior men’s sevens team captain, Sean Ward, whose ‘no limits’ attitude has impressively seen him train and play all over the world for going on 20 years. He is an active mentor and reliable teammate to many up-and-coming players, both in Barbados and overseas, making him a highly respected member of the global rugby circuit and the wider community.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
To many in the rugby fraternity, 30-year-old Ward is well-known for his genuine, ‘hands on’, and steady nature. So much so that current coach Joe Whipple affectionately describes him as the local ‘MacGyver’ – the ‘go-to-guy’ for anything-and-everything, both on-and-off the field.
“Aside from being one of the best elite players in the region, Ward possesses a unique presence that makes him a natural leader. His solid reputation sees people from all walks of life gravitate towards him for advice,” says Whipple.
“Sean gives his all to everything he lends his time to. He’s always the first to put on a karaoke session for the players and to pitch in with whatever needs to be done, even sharing the driving with me on countless rugby road trips.”
Ward’s strong leadership example has also paved the way for several other Barbadian nationals to follow in his footsteps and embrace rugby opportunities overseas, and he is always just a phone call away for those feeling homesick or needing encouragement.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Ward first got involved with rugby at 11 years old when a friend asked him to come along to a social match, and from that day on he was hooked.
His talent and ‘can do’ approach was noticed quickly and soon he was invited to train and play rugby in places like North America, England and Europe, while still moving up the local ranks to reach the Barbadian National Men’s Senior side; eventually earning the honour of captain of the men’s sevens team in 2016.
Ward is also a member of the Barbados national men’s 15s team and has lent his playing prowess to international teams such as Brampton, Oakville, and the Dog River Howlers in Canada, as well as proudly flying the Bajan rugby flag at numerous British clubs.
HIS BROTHERS & SISTERS’ KEEPER
Without a doubt, Ward plays a pivotal leadership role in the fabric of the rugby community, both in Barbados and abroad, and his mentoring work comes in many different forms and fashions.
While spending his off-season training in Canada, Ward is an avid supporter to many injured Canadian ice hockey players – counselling and motivating them to get back on track. He also takes the time to cook meals for elderly patients in local hospitals during the holiday season in Canada to boost their morale.
Back home in Barbados, Ward volunteers in the name of rugby in any way he can, from cleaning up the local clubhouse; putting on team events; providing skills technique advice and training; life counselling and support; assistance with recruiting new players; and even helping to raise money for his peers to buy the equipment they need to continue in the sport. He also mentors some of the local young women’s players – inviting them to train with him to challenge their fitness and mental toughness.
Despite his modesty, Ward says he gets great satisfaction out of his mentoring and community work, although he emphasises that, for the most part, he prefers to be behind the scenes.
“I am not really looking for any recognition. I do what I do for the joy of giving back, knowing I was able to help someone in some way, and to be a part of a person’s positive development is what matters,” said Ward.
“It’s really important for me to pass on some of the knowledge and experience that I have been fortunate enough to receive through my own personal journey to try to uplift others – knowledge is power!”