A successful T&T footballer and international star, in fact two of them, end their careers and decide they are going to “give back” to local football. They will use their resources to bring local talent forward.
The pair decide to open a coaching school catering for boys and girls between the ages of six and 19. To coach these youngsters, they sound out the local community to find committed coaches who have the patience to work with young people and who have the skills to coach in the modern era. Ex-national players-- hand-picked again--are taken on as mentors who would visit the clinic to cast knowing eyes over the youngsters, make suggestions and spend time with the boys and girls.
The international duo also decide to enlist a small management group to run the affairs of the coaching school. Because of the stature of the players, they are also able to attract the assistance of a couple corporate sponsors to help with specific projects, like securing the use of a ground and the building of a club house.
The focus of the coaching school is on enjoyment of the game while teaching the basics and stressing discipline. Youngsters are given individual attention, so the intake of players is kept to manageable proportions.
In the initial years, the focus is on exposing the senior players in the school to youth competition to test their skills. But the “Future Stars” Coaching School also starts scouting the country for potential as they organise games in various communities. Occasionally, a tour to another Caribbean island is made.
The mentors are utilised here. And paid for it. Part of their job entails doing background checks to get a sense of the players’ mental makeup.
The School has a code of conduct for all “students”, which is strictly adhered to. Those who repeatedly do not comply are ejected, no matter how talented.
The Under-19 team applies to enter zonal competition to give them exposure to tougher competition.
Eventually, “Future Stars” develops a reputation for producing strong teams. A decision is taken to start a senior team to play in the Super League, using the nucleus of the Under-19 side with the addition of “outside” players who fit in with the club’s standards of discipline. Future Stars are not looking for the best players to win the Super League; they want the right players in order to play good football. They struggle in the early years of their Super League sojourn, precisely because of being so selective. But the experience toughens the young side, the players who stick with the programme.
In time, however, Future Stars’ approach makes them Super League winners. They have kept their identity and developed a relationship with the community in which the coaching school is located. Because of the high profile and reputation of the founding ex-players and the management team in place, the coaching school/club has been able to organise successful football festival,s which have occasionally been graced by a world football celebrity, and local sports personalities, track athletes, cricketers, etc. Those festivals turned into community events, which grew big as the years passed.
The Super League side has developed something of a national following. Supporters start to clamour for Future Stars to become a Pro League outfit. The owners are reluctant. Their goal from inception was to develop a cadre of players with the proper football values and skills on the pitch to give the national team options that were not available in their own playing days.
Playing in the Pro League would now involve a much bigger injection of capital, both to enter the League and to pay players and staff. The international ex-stars are apprehensive that their founding philosophy could get lost in a Pro League world. But what they have done is already revolutionary. They have large community support and a good relationship with the corporate world that can be tapped into.
They decide to go for it!
A decision is made that Future Stars will revert to playing youth league football and be a feeder team for the Pro League unit, which will carry a different name--X Village United.
X Village will follow the same principles as Future Stars, but seeing that professional football is now the game, more carefully selected “outsiders” will be brought into the fold. The aim will be to build the brand to be a power in CONCACAF and to produce players who can get overseas contracts-with reputable teams in Britain and wider Europe. The ex-stars will use their contacts to make the links.
The Hasely Crawford Stadium is the venue for X Village’s first match. The noise is loud from the sizeable group in the stands clad in the club’s colours when the players come out of the tunnel. There are lumps in the throats of the two founders. They almost could not believe their eyes.
In ten years, the Future Stars dream has borne much fruit....
I had asked you reader to use your imagination at the start of this piece, because the story of X Village and the Future Stars is pure fantasy. But in my mind’s eye, I came up with such a structure. I thought it could be a good prototype for developing talent--with some tweaking perhaps.
Of course the Future Stars project is not a national programme. But Trinidad and Tobago does not have a great history of football development. Many Football Association/Federation plans have joined the dust heaps of history.
The Raymond Tim Kee administration so far shows signs of doing more than talk. The hiring of Leo Beenhakker as Director of Football and the scouting that he and coach Stephen Hart have already undertaken are positive steps. But president Tim Kee and his people need all the help they can get. So there is responsibility upon individual clubs to spend more time focusing on real development of their players. None of North East Stars or Caledonia AIA or Central FC might be as privileged to be run by two star former footballers with money and influence like the duo at Future Stars. But there is no price on vision, determination and principle.
Question is how many are still willing to build on foundations like those.