It was the first collegiate soccer showcase that the Student-Athlete Resources and Support (STARS) group put on for grade nine to 12 boys and girls on Saturday at the Roscow A.L. Davies Soccer Field, and it proved to be a tremendous success. STARS operates under the Ministry of Education’s Scholarship and Educational Loan Division (SELD).
A total of six colleges were represented this past weekend – five from the United States and the University of The Bahamas as well. Scouts from other schools joined in via live stream.
The showcase encompassed 90 boys and 46 girls from four different islands around The Bahamas. The capital island of New Providence had the most registrants – 94 percent of the total number. Four percent were from Grand Bahama.
A total of 15 of the registrants came from C.R. Walker, followed by 14 from Queen’s College and 11 from St. Augustine’s College (SAC).
The scouts spoke about the athleticism they saw from the local student-athletes.
Steward Bortey, second-year head coach at Dodge City Community College in Dodge City, Kansas, said the girls he saw were very fast and physical. He said: “There is a lot of talent here. I will be picking up some players. If I get one, I have made a good trip. I feel like the talent here is good and I’ll be lucky to have one from here.”
The showcase was planned from early December and is expected to be a staple on the sports calendar going forward.
Ethan Bontly, head coach of Truman Junior College in Chicago, Illinois, also came down from the cold weather to observe the skills of the Bahamian athletes. He represented both Truman and Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois at the showcase.
Besides those two coaches, Dion Godet, head coach of the University of The Bahamas Mingoes men’s soccer team; Nicole Acosta, head coach of the women’s soccer team at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona; and David Casper from East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee, were also in attendance.
Bontly said that there were three girls who really impressed him. He said that they can do a semester at the junior college level then go off to play for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I schools.
According to Bontly, having three outstanding girls at a showcase of 40 is impressive. The grade nine and 10 girls can use this as a marker to see where they need to be by the time they are ready for college, he said. Three other girls who Bontly tried to recruit were in grades nine and 10. He said he has them on his radar.
He also said the girls are very physical which is a plus for them as the game is a physical one at the collegiate level. He was impressed with the attacking aspect of the players, stating they are very fast.
“Once you get into the midfield and the attacking half they were very fast. There were some girls who were on the fit side. Some of the girls did fine individually on defense,” Bontly said.
The coaches also did some coaching as well, showing the girls a few drills on ball handling and other areas they need to improve on. One of the weak areas, Bontly said, is fitness level. He said the girls can be more fit.
Leanna Dean, a grade 10 student at Bahamas Academy, embraced the opportunity. The defender and goalkeeper said: “The skills that we practiced, some of them were a little off from my skills but I feel as though it may help me to do and be better at my game with more practice.”
A number of them took the field in the afternoon and evening sessions, putting their skills on display.
Jurelle Mullings, coordinator of STARS, said the coaches were impressed with the talent level from the boys. Some of the boys had offers on the spot, she said. She said that some of the coaches who were tuned in via live stream contacted her about some of the players’ names and how to get in contact with them.
Bontly said: “This is one of the most well put together events that I have ever been to – from the organization, materials handed out to the coaches, presenters, to the fact that they have on-field training with coaches and then have games. In making those connections and having the amount of time and access for the athletes to the coaches, it is huge for anyone in any sport. I think that the time and money that they put into it is really going to improve.”
Mullings, who was there for the entire day, said it was a success and she only sees growth from here on.
“All I see is growth, especially if we capitalize on more partnerships,” Mullings said. “Hopefully in the future we are able to network with the sports ministry – bridging that gap between sports and education. We also hope to network with the Ministry of Tourism because we have a small number of international coaches this year but with the help of the tourism ministry, we can open doors to make it more accessible and affordable for these schools to come to The Bahamas for the opportunities they have for our kids,” she added.
There was a student-athlete information session on Friday night that included two testimonies – one from former Bahamian student-athlete Mack Altidor and the other from current student-athlete Marcel Joseph. Represented at the session were the NCAA, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
Mullings said the STARS program is looking to reach out to the sport of softball next.
Sponsoring the showcase this past weekend were SuperClubs Breezes Bahamas; Glinton, Sweeting, O’Brien Counsel and Attorneys-at-Law; Bahamas Local; Milo B. Butler and Sons Limited; Commonwealth Brewery; Vitamalt; and Impact Fitness.