Young footballers are taking the opportunity to show off their skills under the watchful eyes of five United States coaches, in hopes of landing a scholarship overseas.
This initiative which is called They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) Soccer Student Athletic Scholarship Program was officially launched on Thursday, inside the boardroom of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, who along with the St. Lucia Football Association (SLFA) and the Sacred Sports Foundation have teamed up.
TOCO, which is the brainchild of world renowned St Lucian artist Taj Weekes, is a US based non-profit organization whose mission is to help underprivileged, at risk and orphaned children in the Caribbean through sports, health and enrichment programs. TOCO's projects range from after school soccer programs, a diabetes awareness campaign, poverty initiatives, music and arts programs.
Over the past two years, TOCO has travelled to St. Lucia to deliver 500 soccer balls and 600 uniforms, distributed 2700 glucometers to encourage people to get tested for diabetes and have launched the Clothesline Project to address the issue of domestic violence in the
The TOCO Soccer Student Athletic Scholarship Program is under the supervision of the following five United States university soccer coaches. Their primary objective is to identify students who have the required grades and athleticism to achieve a scholarship to a US college or university: Mike Avery, Head Coach, Valparaiso University; Jeff Oleck, Assistant Head Coach, Valparaiso University; David Stroud, St. Joseph's College; Andy McCaslin, St. Mary's College; and Dan Thibault, Biola University.
At the press launch, President of the SLFA, Patrick Mathurin, embraced the TOCO Soccer Student Athletic Scholarship Program with open arms. He said: "The SLFA is more than happy to partner with anybody when it comes to football. It is our life; it is our mission and in the association we see it more than just a game. We believe that
any initiative that involves young persons in terms of football is great. We are happy to partner with TOCO and the ministry to ensure that this particular activity comes off." He pointed out that this initiative falls within the SLFA's plans for the development of football and hopes it is not a one shot deal but the beginning of things to come. With the assistance of Sacred Sports Foundation, Mathurin planned to contact over 150 young persons island wide to make them aware of the program. It officially got underway Friday evening at the Gros Islet Playing Field. On Saturday the program shifts to the George Odlum Stadium in Vieux Fort from 9 am to 12 noon.
There was a pre registration, however, individuals who are interested in attending the session in Vieux Fort should contact Sandra Alexander of the Sacred Sports Foundation at 758-518-0453. Acting Director of Youth & Sports, Claudia Jn Baptiste, welcomed the new initiative which she feels has a lot of opportunity for young persons. She said: "For many years we have watched our talented young persons just fall by the wayside, especially when they leave secondary school where you have organized competitions. Most of them do not fall into the club structure so we are very happy that at least some of our young people will get an opportunity to receive an education and play
the game they love.”
When that happens a lot of the credit should go St Lucia’s singer/songwriter Taj Weekes who founded TOCO. He is committed to utilizing his talents to bring awareness to the issues of poverty, global warming, HIV/Aids and diabetes through his music. Speaking about TOCO’s football program, the founding member said: “We know the
talent is there; we know the coaches exist and we are trying to bring it all together." Having played football while attending school, Weekes can relate to what young football players are going through. He pointed out that after playing football at his secondary school there was nothing else left. Weekes is proud of the fact he is able to come to St Lucia and assist in some way, not only this year but in years to come.