By Daniel Young
Andrew Lewis has long made Trinidad & Tobago proud with his representation at the Olympics. He spent many years dedicated to the sport of sailing, developing to a level that many people would never reach in their respective fields.
His focus and determination to getting better at sailing paid off as he competed at the Olympic Games in 2012 (London, England), in 2016 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), and a third time in the 2020 Games (Tokyo, Japan) that were held in 2021. That focus and determination, along with an unyielding positive mindset, helped Lewis to overcome many obstacles in his life.
In 2016, a major injury threatened not only his Olympic hopes but his way of life, having to learn to walk, eat, and breathe again on his own.
Even in the face of these extreme circumstances, he knew he would return to the sport and life that he loved so much. He is currently ranked number one in the Caribbean for his sport.
Having such a positive mindset can be considered unique in current time with the prevalence of mental health issues around the world today. Many athletes in the past few years have taken time out of their sport to focus on their mental health, as being in the public eye can understandably become taxing.
Lewis however takes this in stride, clearly evidenced by the projects he takes on. In 2020, while in Tenerife, Spain he began a YouTube series called ‘Positive Moments with Andrew and Don’ with friend and mentor Don La Foucade, who was here in Trinidad.
The series aims to uplift listeners by highlighting positivity in the world. In a time of uncertainty, loss, and hardship due to the Covid-19 pandemic, taking on such a project speaks volumes. It’s not surprising that the series was picked up again for a second season in 2021.
The year 2021 would be a special year for Lewis, not only did he become a father for the first time in July just before his third Olympic Games, but he retired from competitive sailing to become a coach for the Canada national sailing team.
Becoming a father has always been something he wanted. “It’s something I feel like I could not be better prepared for,” he says, expressing that growing up in a big family helped to shape his views on fatherhood and being a family man.
He says that his continual mental and spiritual growth has been a big contributing factor in recognising his capacity as a father. One can only agree when you look at his track record – being an inspiration for children with dyslexia and attention-deficit disorder (ADD) through sport, proving his determined spirit in recovery as well as shifting his skillset into coaching.
All these experiences developed those fatherly traits which Lewis is only excited to share with his new daughter, Oaklee.
Our experiences and choices in life will always shape how we navigate the world around us. Often, we may be experiencing one situation or aspect of life and the process of going through that experience draws parallel with another aspect of our life and vice versa.
When Lewis discusses his coaching philosophy, one can clearly see these parallels to his new fatherhood. He says, “Shifting from an athlete to a coach is interesting. You go from being coached and having an athlete’s mindset of doing better and training, to having to serve others. Making the other person a priority. You have to make sure you prepare the athlete you are coaching as best as possible.”
He says that coaching someone is being able to serve them which, as any new father can attest to, becomes the utmost priority. Being able to serve your children and cultivate their uniqueness is something Lewis says is important.
When asked how he sees himself doing this he responds, “…practising what you preach, being the example of what you wish to see”. He continues “… If you’re going to try to instil good values, you need to understand how you’re going to do so and the effect that it may have on the person you’re advising.”
He drives home the point that, “You need to be aware of how the person you’re teaching and advising absorbs information and do the best you can to teach them in the way they understand. We often see in recent times where parents teach their children in the exact ways that they learned or, in worse cases, parents want their child to fulfil the dreams that the parent never accomplished. One can see where this may cause issues in a child’s life as they are their own unique person.”
Lewis’ thoughts on this carry depth as they encompass not only his ideas of fatherhood, but also the coaching of his athletes.
As it pertains to his coaching he says, “I aim to approach coaching in a holistic way, not only the physical aspect but the mental aspect as well. I teach my athletes that sport is about self-mastery. It is about learning to follow your heart.”
He describes being an athlete in a competitive environment as mentally taxing. He says, “…your ego is based on your past accomplishments – ‘look what I’ve done, look how far I’ve come etc.’. This can sometimes distract from a winning mentality and successful mentality.”
He continues, “The best performances I ever had were the ones I was able to stay in the present.” When asked how he was able to be present, he credits focusing on his breath as a key method. Learning to be present with yourself and being in the present moment is beneficial for any person to develop, as it not only helps decrease stress but cultivates a sense of yourself that is deep.
This is of growing importance in recent times, with the prevalence of mental health issues as already stated. There is wisdom in Lewis’ approach to dealing with stressful situations that he will surely pass on to his daughter. When asked how this connects with guiding his daughter, he says his aim is to guide her to be herself.
Andrew Lewis has accomplished a lot in his life, and it would be understandable if there was a sense of egotistical superiority that would come from that. However, he shows his wisdom, maturity, and depth of outlook. “I want to be well known for being a great citizen of this planet. I want to be known as a good son of God.” Words which he backs up with action.
Lewis has developed a tradition of giving to those in need by visiting the Living Waters Community at Christmas time to give food to the less fortunate. When asked about this he says, “giving back helps to keep you grounded… success can be a dangerous thing. Giving back helps to keep you grounded and humble. It removes the competitiveness and reintroduces love into the environment.”
When asked what advice he would give to his future teenaged daughter for dealing with adversity, he says, “Oaklee, you’re about to enter one of the most discovery [focused] periods in your life through emotion. Emotion which, you have more than ever, the chance to harness and utilise for your own benefit …. we are all miracles, because the chance of you making it on this planet are one in one billion, all of us. The chance of your father surviving his accident and being here today with you – miracle. The chance of your mother birthing you after more than one try – miracle. The gift of this miracle, who you are today, is no chance. It’s perfect timing.”
He would remind her that, “life is perfectly imperfect, and when we’re down it’s just a journey to getting back up, and when you’re up, take someone with you.”