By Neto Baptiste
The Ministry of Sports, coaches and the national football association must all play a significant role in educating and exposing the country’s young talents to major scholarship opportunities.
This is the belief of former national striker and A Licensed assistant coach at the Merrimack College in Massachusetts, Conrad Whyte, who said authorities in Antigua must seek to get players into better schools by first doing the necessary groundwork and also creating a viable system through which players could be prepared for that next step.
“That is not my job because I am not there [in Antigua]; that is the job of the people who are there in seeing these [players] and reaching out to me but that does not happen. I have reached out to Schyan Jeffers and we have talked about a couple of prospects, but the idea is, though, that Schyan will be very honest with me and say ‘yes, he can play at your level or no, he can’t play at your level’,” he said.
“I am not going to throw anybody under the bus but I have had conversations with people in Antigua about certain players and they have told me point blank those players cannot play for you and I have to respect that because my job is based on me being honest and forthcoming with my boss. My job is based on me bringing in the right players to fit into our situation so that we don’t get fired,” he added.
Whyte, who has held a number of training camps here, said that although he coaches at a prominent college in the USA and could assist, he must take the advice of the trained coaches here regarding the competence and readiness of players.
“It’s the coaches’ job to get educated on this stuff, it’s the Ministry of Sports job to get educated, it’s the ABFA’s job to get educated, not the parents. I get emails all the time from Manchester United Academy, Man City, Millwall and all these clubs in England, and here’s why. When you’re in these setups from age nine, by the time you reach 15 or 16 you know if you’re going to be a pro and if you don’t get a contract by then you’re going to start looking to go to college,” he said.
“What you are looking at is a player in the Manchester United setup who, when he gets to 16, Manchester United has no interest in signing him so he decides he wants to go to college. Take that player who had been doing that for seven years with the best coaches in the world, and take a player from Trinidad, Jamaica, Antigua, or wherever, and you put the two on a pedestal, then who are they choosing?” Whyte added.
The former Empire player who is also owner of the Carisamba Soccer Academy, said cost is also a major factor for most families.
“If I offer you $30,000 of the $62,000, then can you come up with the rest? I have to move a safe figure that I know I can go back to my boss and say or ask, can we afford this, and he may say that yes we can afford it because we are bringing in seven players next year. We have a roster of 40 players and you have to share 9.9 scholarships between 40 players, so it’s not easy. When people talk about full scholarships here and there … it’s hard; they have to pay something,” he said. Whyte has also advocated for the setting up of an agency and or business to assist young players and their parents in applying for scholarships in the USA and other parts of the world.