Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
The importance of balancing football with academics has once again come to the fore, as youngsters from across the island who have the requisite qualifications will get the opportunity to impress scouts from prestigious universities in the United States, with the hope of obtaining scholarships.
On Saturday, January 12, the scouts will focus their attention on the annual Jonathan 'Johnno' Hibbert Memorial Football Tournament, to be staged at Munro College in St Elizabeth, before zooming in on Juici Patties in May Pen, Clarendon, on Sunday for another day of action.
Action on both days is slated to start at 8 a.m. with a registration process. The participants must have a minimum of five CXC subjects, including mathematics and English language, and will be asked to take along their SAT scores and make a donation of $100 to assist with expenses of meals and refreshments.
Munro College will be hosting a coaches' session on Friday ahead of their scouting opportunity.
Veteran coach Bradley Stewart, who is not affiliated to Hibbert's memorial but is one of the brains behind Sunday's scouting exercise, is encouraging schools from across the island to encourage their qualified student athletes to come out and participate.
"We are inviting those kids who have graduated or will be graduating in June," Stewart said. "Most of them will be in what we call upper school with subjects already, some might have done the SAT (exams) or will be doing it soon, as we are trying to expose kids who will be ready for college in September."
Stewart, a former national senior and juvenile coach, has been affording youngsters the opportunity to get scholarships for the past 30 years, with notable persons such as Professor Gladstone Hutchinson, Dr Kingsley Chin, Christopher Dehring, Andy Williams, Omar Cummings and, just last year, Ashani Walker, benefiting from the programme.
"A lot of the overseas universities follow what's happening in our programme, so they already know some names; the famous George's names - the Kendon Andersons and the Zhelano Barnes," Stewart revealed. "Those names keep coming up, but if 10 coaches come and the 10 coaches want Zhelano Barnes, that is not going to be possible, so we have to expose the other kids.
FEMALES ALSO WELCOME
"The coaches are interested in girls, too, so we are inviting the Waterhouse female team, and the Los Perfectos female team and whoever else they want to invite."
Stewart anticipates over 100 youngsters to parade their skills on Sunday for in excess of 30 scouts from overseas universities, which include Florida International University, Ciriacruz University and the University of Cincinnati.
"We are also opening this to the local universities, as most of them now are giving scholarships," Stewart added.
Participants will be placed in game situations, with the coaches deciding who they want based on the allocations at their universities. The coaches will make approaches to the students at the end, at which point the recruiting process will start.