STARS Soccer Showcase expands

It was a rainy and chilly day, nevertheless, the 2nd Annual Student-Athlete Resources and Support (STARS) College Soccer Showcase took place and is now in the history books. The practical part of the showcase took place this past Saturday at the Roscow A.L. Davies Soccer Field.

This year, organizers saw an increase in the number of participants as 101 boys and 70 girls who registered took part along with others who came to register on that day.

There were five colleges which made the trip to watch the athletes perform as local coaches put them through drills. A couple of the drills were passing and possession. There were also scrimmage games so coaches could observe the athletes in game settings.

The five colleges that made the trip were Holland College in Charlottetown, PEI, Canada; Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia; Dodge City Community College in Dodge City, Kansas; Richard Bland College in South Prince George, Virginia; and Southern University in Baker, Louisiana.

Also in attendance was the University of The Bahamas (UB).

Coaches were also tuned in to the showcase via livestream.

In addition to the showcase, the girls had a symposium on Thursday night and an informational session.

The visiting coaches who made the trip were impressed with the talent of the players and expressed interest in recruitment exercises.

“I saw a lot of hard work, a lot of respect, and everyone was trying hard,” said Holland’s coach Brandon Eagle. “First impressions were very high and that is great because that is all you can ask for when you come to these events. You get to see these players in a short amount of time, you get to see them working hard and showing you everything that they have. Information has been shared and definitely some connections have been made. We’ll be reaching out over the next couple days and hopefully if everything works out; we would be having a couple of these players on our roster next year.”

Eagle represented both their men and women’s programs and said they are looking for players at every position. He said he is looking forward to returning.

Dodge College Men’s Head Coach Oscar Zeleya said before the boys session that he heard that there are fast players here and was eager to see them in action.

“Fast kids. That is pretty much what we are looking for—some kids who are fast and can move the ball well,” said Zeleya.

He said he came looking for a center midfielder or a central defender, but in a junior college he said things change quickly, so he is looking at every position in case something else opens up.

Head Coach of Richard Bland’s men and women’s soccer teams Damien Westfield said he was impressed with the girls’ athleticism.

“That is something you don’t always find in the U.S.,” he said. “You don’t always find players who are technically sound and athletic so it is very good to see some here. As a coach, we can see whether or not we can help them develop technically.”

Westfield said he has his eyes set on a few players who he believes would be beneficial to his program.

“There were some players that we shared our contact information with, and hopefully we will take the information back to the admissions department and see how best we can get them to apply and get accepted,” said Bland.

Asya Johnson who attends Bishop Michael Eldon out of Freeport, Grand Bahama, was one of the girls who attended the showcase.

“It was a good learning experience for me,” she said. “It was tough because I am from Freeport and the Nassau girls are aggressive, but it was interesting playing with a new team and getting to know everybody and stepping out of my comfort zone.”

Johnson said she will work on a few skills to aid in her development and come back stronger next year.

Also attending the showcase out of Freeport, Grand Bahama, was Salene Johnson. She attends Sunland Baptist Academy.

“It was an interesting experience,” said Johnson. It was something new because the Nassau girls have a different level of aggression. It was a learning experience for me. I know what I need to work on now. I am glad I came to it. It was a good opportunity for me.”

Salene Johnson said she needs to work on shooting more, long passes and her fitness level.

Both are grateful for the opportunity to showcase their talents to the different coaches.

The weekend occurred as a collaboration between STARS and the Bahamas Football Association (BFA). STARS Coordinator Jurelle Mullings-Nairn said the weekend activities were amazing and she thanked the BFA for assisting.

“The BFA is definitely making strides in the right direction, and the STARS program is definitely making an impact by creating a college-going culture for student-athletes,” said Mullings-Nairn. “Athletes came here and wanted to take advantage of the opportunities and they did.” Mullings-Nairn added that she was impressed at how much the showcase has grown and she looks forward to it expanding more in the years to come.

BFA Vice President Andre Moss, who is in charge of women’s soccer in the country, said they are headed in the right direction, particularly after seeing the large number of girls who came out on Saturday.

“We had a symposium on Thursday where my boss Karina LeBlanc was down as a guest speaker, and she helped to dispel a lot of the myths that parents may have about soccer,” said Moss. “We are starting now to get the message out there. We are providing more opportunities to showcase our girls, and let parents know that if they are looking for an opportunity for their children to develop in a nice, wholesome, clean, fun sport —with opportunities to go off to college— soccer is a viable option.”

Mullings-Nairn said she is currently working with the Bahamas Softball Federation (BSF) and hopefully in November, they could stage a softball showcase.

According to Mullings-Nairn, the average grade point average (GPA) of the participants was 3.08. She said that is a good thing as it will help the student-athletes to land academic scholarships in addition to athletic scholarships.

Last year, seven local athletes were awarded scholarships to play soccer in different colleges abroad. They were McKell Yallop, Rashawn Hamilton, Savanna Rolle, Laurann Brown, India Davis, Tyra McKenzie and Tevin Lewis.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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