By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
EMPOWER Sports Network (ESN) continues to expand its organisation with its next milestone, the establishment of an exchange programme between the Bahamas and Canada.
ESN hosted tryouts for its boys' Under-18 and U-16 teams to participate in the Halifax, Nova Scotia Exchange at the AF Adderley Gymnasium last weekend. Dozens of aspiring student athletes participated in the tryouts aimed at creating a sporting and cultural exchange in both locations.
"We had a good group that came out, a good group of kids to select from as we figure out how they would fit into what we want and for us to figure out how we can use them for this first exchange programme. You saw that athleticism that Bahamian players are known for, and already you could see certain players began to gel with one another as the day went on," ESN Director Ollen Smith said. "We want to make every year bigger and better and we eventually want ESN to have its own AAU team, showcase females through the exchange programme, develop actual leagues and utilise the brand that can be a connection for culture and sports because it's a new avenue, not just for school but it's also a way for a better life."
Smith's coaching staff also includes women's national team standout Ashley Moss, who played at the collegiate level in Canada at Holland College and Concordia University.
"We really wanted to focus on defence. Coaches in Canada, they know we're athletic but we want to put structure to the athleticism and make them organised. We want to get them into that prep school organisational play early. The earlier they can do that the better," Moss said. "I've been to Canada in school for five years and I didn't pay anything, it was all opportunities through basketball. We want more people to consider Canada because it's a different route you can take. You have people coming out of Canada making it to the NBA if that's your dream, but it's a vehicle to get an education and this can be the first step in that direction for a lot of them."
Teams from the Halifax area will live and train in the Bahamas for an extended period of time, while the teams from ESN will do the same in Canada. "It will be a focal point for sports tourism, help transition with cultural differences and give these kids an idea of what to expect before you actually come to school in Canada. So the plan is to have about 30 kids come to Halifax, meet the coaches, see the schools, be immersed in the culture. We want the same for Canadians to have them here, working out on the beach and also being a part of our culture."
ESN plans to teach the importance of youth development through sports and education. The brand also hosts sporting events to showcase top talent.
Smith, a former junior national team standout, made the transition to coaching and training to impact a future generation of student athletes. The organisation plans to focus on the development of youth basketball throughout the country. "We have a few things to focus on multi-tasking - hand-eye coordination, foot placement, balance learning to pick your spots and get your shot off the way you want to because that's what great offensive players do," Smith said. "We have to target the youth before they can develop egos, bad habits, they would know the basic fundamentals and terminology."