The aim at every stage in the athletic career of an individual should be to focus on the development of the whole person than just the athletic person. This certainly becomes ever more important for the future of these folks, not just sportspeople, where they enter a different stage of their career or a different category. The only way to ensure that is by commitment to the holistic development of our athletes right from the outset and throughout their athletic careers.
I had a conversation with former T&T midfielder Carlos Edwards a couple days ago on a similar topic. This is a man who played for T&T at the FIFA World Cup in 2006 but one of very few from this country to play in the English Premiership.
Edwards is now a player with Bury Town FC in England but also involved in the management side. He welcomed two aspiring professional players from this country at Bury last week in Gary Griffith III and Jesse Williams. Both players have registered with Coleraine FC in the Northern Ireland Premier League and are currently trying to get their footing on solid ground on the European stage.
Neither have ever represented the country at the senior level and had been in largely unfamiliar territory over the past month. So you could imagine what it might have been like for both of them being able to train alongside the former T&T World Cup veteran during their stint at Bury.
“It’s been a once in a lifetime experience for us so far. The lads at Coleraine have been exceptional and we already feel like part of the family,” said Griffith III.
“We have put our best foot forward and I believe that trusting in God and the whole process. This is also a way of showing people that persistence, hard work and belief pays off. At the end of the day we are all striving to improve our craft and be able to then represent our country in the best way possible.” he said
Williams pointed out: “With this journey it's been quite difficult at times being retested (for COVID-19) on several occasions which sometimes threw us off. But it’s football we came to play and this is what we signed up for so we’ve come out here and given it our best.
“It’s been easier to acclimatise being in the presence of each other and of course seeing a familiar face. We all share the same goals and coming into a new family at Coleraine FC has made the process a little easier. But we are in a new environment and we are learning everyday.
"But the main thing is putting your faith in God and knowing that everyday day you wake up means you have a chance of succeeding.”
Former stars such as Edwards demonstrating that their inputs can help others who are in search of opportunities to excel or at least continue their development is definitely something we as a nation should feel good about as it relates to our future generations
Edwards understands that success doesn’t come overnight. It takes time and commitment to build the skills necessary to perform on the big stage and for athletes like him, it is never just a job. It is a challenge and an opportunity to get better every day. This is what he’s tried to pass on to the young duo over the couple days he shared with them.
“So far the reports have been good on both of them. Obviously they are young and there is lot for them to take on board out here. They both gave a decent account of themselves when they lined up for Ipswich Town in a game against Bury and I’m actually quite surprised to see how well they have adapted to the conditions here,” said Edwards.
“But the main thing for me was being able to be involved in a warm-up with them before one of our games and even though we didn’t play the game together I was able to interact with them and touch on a few things. At this stage of my life and career these are important moments. It allows me to work closer with young persons like Gary and Jesse and try to put them on the right path. When you are out here in this environment every 15 minutes or few sessions together goes a long way.
“What I tried to make clear to them is that they both have to be their own selves. Don’t try to be like each other or like another player in the team. They must express themselves and their own style in training and in the actual game. It’s what persons like myself and Stern (John) and even Dwight (Yorke) did when we were over here from the early days. All three of us ended up together at Sunderland and it was the same thing,” Edwards added. He spoke of a current arrangement he and other past players are currently engaged in to offer more opportunities for young T&T players.
There are no guarantees in this arena. In spite of everything happening at the moment it's may not be all doom and gloom in our football circles. From one phase to the next we can hopefully keep pushing!
Shaun Fuentes is the head of TTFA Media. He is a former FIFA Media Officer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey The views expressed are solely his and not a representation of any organisation.