By Jamila Cross, email@example.com
In 2013, Rashad Hyacenth was a standout midfielder for St Mary’s College, the first team since the 1980s to win the North Zone league title and make it to a National Final being edged out by Presentation College, San Fernando.
This twenty-five-year-old has always had an unwavering self-confidence and from an early age, emphatically stated to his father in 1998 after Zinedine Zidane ushered France to a World Cup title, that he would play football professionally.
“Fr Anton Dick had a profound impact on my life while at St Mary’s, always reminding me of the importance of balancing spirituality, academia, and my athletic pursuits.”
Growing up in Trinidad, he started playing football at age four. His father Joel Hyacenth is one of the co-founders of the SKHY Football Club, one of the most successful youth football clubs in the country established in 1996.
During his early years at SKHY FC he developed his passion for football and considers the familial atmosphere of the club as having a profound impact on his love for the game.
While he declares football as his first love, at an early age he was also involved in swimming and won a bronze medal in the Pan American Junior Games in karate.
He remembers fondly his first experiences at age 13, travelling to the USA to participate in the Dallas Cup, getting the opportunity to play against international teams, and intercultural exchanges with host families as creating a shift in his mindset about what it would take to make it as an international athlete.
“In my household, I had a very strong support system. My mother was adamant about mastering my academics, and my father nurtured in me the limitless possibilities of a career in football. They struck the chord of balance.”
In 2014, he was awarded a full athletic scholarship to Belmont University in Tennessee, and after two years, his dominance on the field was undeniable. He transferred to Indiana University where he formed an indispensable part of the 2017 team, ranked at the time as the number one team in the USA.
He describes playing in a US National Final as a happy and humbling moment, as Indiana University lost 1-0 in double overtime to Stanford University. Ironically, he remembers watching clippings of Dexter Skeene, his SKHY FC club coach and former national player for the 1989 ‘Strike Squad’, who played for Columbia University, lose a National Final in 1983 to Indiana University 1-0. It was an extremely ironic, and bittersweet moment.
“I dreamt of the experience as a child, telling my coach Dexter that one day I too would play in university in a National Final.”
In 2018, Rashad graduated with a degree in Economics and International Relations, and credits a strong support network of family, friends, his girlfriend, former national track athlete Tsai-Anne Joseph, aunts Yolande and Cynthia’s constant love and encouragement as being his driving forces for continuing in his quest to become a professional player.
COVID-19 has not wavered his focus as he maintains a disciplined training schedule, training twice daily, five days weekly. He is wired for success and has learnt from a young age, the importance of a positive work ethic.
Spirituality plays a seminal role in his life, and he notes that his personal relationship with God grounds him. His mother passed away before he went to university and he remembers vividly her relentless quest to always demonstrate love. It is something he also hopes that he embodies.
He has learnt to lean on God and continue his path, notwithstanding life’s challenges; understanding that God’s timing is perfect in his life. His personal ethos he declares as we end our interview:
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov 3:5–6).
Jamila Cross is a triathlete, former professional footballer for Sevilla FC women’s Club Spain, and mother of three boys Tishad, Akim and Santiago. She is the founder of the Mariama Foundation, a registered non-profit organisation raising the storytelling bar for the Caribbean’s female athletes.