Like father, like son
Venslough Leacock is almost a carbon copy of his father.
They went to the same secondary school, both play hockey and even sometimes work together. And, oh, they share the same name too.
But the similarities don’t end there.
Both are soft spoken, well-mannered and flash identical smiles.
If not for the obvious disparity in their ages – with Venslough being 49 years old and Ramon, as his son is called to differentiate between the two, 24 – you could even be fooled into thinking they are twins.
The two are also part of the popular business R.A Mapps in Eagle Hall, St. Michael, which was started by Venslough’s grandfather, Richard Mapp, long before he was even born.
One can’t help but be amazed at how similarly the lives of this father and son have played out.
Venslough, who is an Acting Station Sergeant in the Special Branch of the Royal Barbados Police Force, got into playing hockey while attending Ellerslie Secondary.
“I used to play cricket, table tennis and lawn tennis as well, but I always had this love for hockey,” he recalls, adding that playing the sport led to him making the national Under-21 and senior hockey teams.
It is a love which he has held for over three decades, and one which he passed on to his son. And to further prove that hockey runs through Venslough’s veins, he has a 15-year-old daughter, Chenice, who also plays the sport.
According to Ramon, his father’s love and passion for playing hockey attracted him to the sport at a very young age.
“Whenever my dad would go to play hockey I would go with him, and it’s only obvious that because he played hockey he wanted me to play as well,” he says.
“I started to play around the age of four or five . . . and I just fell in love with the sport.”
And as if reading from the same script, after leaving West Terrace Primary to attend Ellerslie, Ramon’s hockey talents blossomed.
Just like his father, he made the national Under-21 team, earning a trip to the Pan American Games.
Just like his father, he plays either the forward or midfield positions on the hockey pitch.
And just like his dad, commitments have forced him to take a step back from the game.
Venslough, who spent 10 years on the senior team, was forced to retire from international duty, while school and work commitments meant Ramon had to sacrifice training with the senior side.
The two forwards still find time, though, to turn out for local club Maple, where they play together.
Along the way it has led to them capturing several league and knockout titles, as well as the coveted Banks International Hockey Festival.
Ramon has credited his father’s support for helping him to develop not only his hockey skills, but also helping him to be the man he is today.
“He was always there to give me tips and to help me whenever I needed it. I remember when I was in secondary school playing in the second division, sometimes I wouldn’t get a start and I would be upset because I knew I could make a difference in the team.
“But he would always tell me to be patient and to take my time. I remember scoring my first goal when I eventually made the first division team. I was freaking out and telling him ‘yuh see, yuh see?’” Ramon recounts.
“We have a very close relationship,” Venslough confidently admits. Ramon agrees.
The proud father, a police officer for over 20 years, said he was fortunate that, even with his work, he was able to spend a lot of time with his son.
“I think that one of the fortunate things for me was that I haven’t been in an area or a department where I had issues. I’ve always had understanding people working with me and I never had any problems.
“There was always the extended family too, that would always lend that support. My mother, his uncles and aunts used to help me out, so it wasn’t difficult at all . . . and then because of the hockey we always had opportunities to spend time together, so that made up for some of the other times,” Venslough explains.
The father and son aren’t only partners on the hockey field though. Patrons of R.A Mapps would probably have seen the two working side by side, behind the counter.
For Venslough, it is an opportunity which he truly cherishes, and he respects his son for making the sacrifice to work in the family business.
“I go down occasionally to help out and stuff, but I feel good that Ramon is working there. I know that once he’s there, my brother will ensure that he maintains a high level of discipline as well.
“The commitment that he has, to go to work every day, is something that I feel very good about. One of the things that really makes me feel good is that at his age he works only nights, so that means he has to make a lot of sacrifices in terms of going out, partying, and even playing hockey,” Venslough says.
“I’m certain that if he wasn’t working he would have been on the national team already, because practice is usually in the evening and that’s when he starts to work, so he wasn’t able to attend as often as he would have liked.”