By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
LAURANN Brown, Savanna Rolle and Grand Bahamian McKell Yallop were among the first of five soccer players who have pioneered the student-athlete resources and support (Stars) programme.
The three, accompanied by their parents and family members, were introduced to the press as the first group of recipients of athletic scholarships to colleges and universities in the United States.
Missing from the presentation at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology’s scholarship and educational loan division were India Davis of Kingsway Academy, who will be attending Allen University and Rashawn Hamilton of Charles W Saunders, who will be heading off to St Andrew’s University.
Jurelle Mullings, the coordinator of the Stars athletic programme, said she was delighted to have been able to secure the scholarships for all five players.
Brown, a graduate of St Anne’s High School, will be heading to Dodge City Community College, while Rolle, a graduate of Nassau Christian Academy, will be joining Davis at Allen and Yallop, out of Sunland Baptist Academy, will be off to Arizona Western College.
“Over 300 students signed up but, as a team of one, there is only so much that I can do,” Nairn said. “So I’ve assisted many students who have become successful and many who have not become successful because of challenges.
“But this year, we had our first annual showcase. We partnered with the BFA (Bahamas Football Association). Working along with the BFA was awesome. I worked closely with Carl Lynch, who is the assistant secretary general. They are very professional. They assisted us with the resources that we needed to pull off our very first showcase.”
Over 115 players from around the country participated and they got a chance to interact with the five college coaches present and also displayed their talents for the 75 coaches who viewed them virtually.
“All of the schools that they’ve signed with were present at the showcase, except Allen University. The coach watched virtually, but they contacted with Savanna and India and they sent them some film.”
Andre Moss, the vice president of the BFA and head of women’s football in the country, said it’s an exciting time for the BFA because they just got back from the Women’s World Cup in Paris, France and a workshop for women’s football.
“The opportunities for women are just tremendous and so obviously partnering with FIFA and the ministry, we hope to get a lot of opportunities in Nassau, in Grand Bahama and throughout the Bahamas to get more women in football,” he stated.
Brown, a centre field player, said because of her passion for football and her ability to play wherever she is needed on the field, she was awarded the opportunity to continue her soccer career.
“I want to thank my mom (Charlene Stubbs), my club coaches (Daria Adderley) for giving me the opportunity to attend Dodge City Community College,” said Brown, who hopes to pursue sports management as her major.
Stewart Borley, the head women’s soccer coach at Dodge City Community College, said they can’t wait to welcome Brown to their campus in Dodge City, Kansas.
“It’s always a great time when you pick up great players from great places,” said Borley on his find in Brown in the Bahamas. “I’m really appreciated for Jurelle for affording Laurann the opportunity to bring her talent here.
“Everybody we picked up from around the world is working hard, running, lifting and touching the soccer ball. Everybody is getting ready for a good season.”
Borley said he anticipates that Brown will come in ready to learn because college is different from league play. He said they play in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, which is considered one of the toughest in the United States, so it comes down to the work they put in.
“My expectation for Laurann is high. I want her to come in and take her role. I see her playing defence for me. I see her playing in a forward position. Overall, I’m very excited to see what she does this year and how much she develops as a person and as a player.”
Having played soccer for the past nine years, the last four as a member of the youth national team, Yallop said she loves the game. She currently plays as a midfield attacker and or defender.
“Soccer has taken me to many places around the world, given me a lot of opportunities and I just love the sport,” she said. “I just want to encourage more women to play. It’s a great sport.”
Her proud father, Miles Yallop Jr, thanked Nairn and the Ministry’s Star programme for assisting his daughter and the others who are heading off to college.
“It’s an excellent programme. I hope you continue to push because it seems to have opened a lot of doors and a lot of opportunities for young ladies to further their careers and their goals,” he said.
Rolle, who has been playing soccer from the time she started to “walk” and has developed a knack for defence on the field, or forward whenever called upon, said she was fortunate to develop her coaching skills this year by instructing her Cavalier Club’s under-7 team in the BFA.
“I love soccer obviously,” she stressed. “I’ve had many, many challenges, injuries and setbacks and I would like to thank my parents for believing in me and keep on pushing me to pursue exactly what I want to do.
“I want to thank coach Daria (Adderley), whom I’m sure, even though she gets annoyed with me a lot, has pushed me to be where I’m at right now. Without you, I probably would have stopped a long time.”
In thanking her sister and brother, two of her biggest fans, Rolle advised more women to play sports, particularly soccer because it’s a great sport and they will meet a lot of people.”
For the past 15 years, Adderley has been working with the women’s programme, both nationally and internationally, and she said she is always inspired when she sees players excel like this group has.
“These three ladies, I actually touched a part of their lives in soccer,” she lamented. “Every last one of them, I’ve coached either at the national level or at the club. McKell I coached for two years as a national team player when I coached the national team, as I did with Savanna and Laurann and I coached Laurann and Savanna at the club level.
“So to see these three young ladies get the scholarship to play soccer in the United States is a great feat for them and it’s a great feat for young girls in the Bahamas. I’m very proud of all three of them for getting this opportunity and I know these three young ladies will be great ambassadors for the country and the sport as they open doors for more of our young people in the future.”
Nairn said there are so many opportunities at the college level for female soccer players, but in most cases, she was not able to make some of the connections for one reason or the other.
She instructed interested players to start seriously preparing themselves from grade nine by taking their external examinations so that when the opportunities come when they get in grade 12, they will be ready for the opportunities available.
Nairn said one of the great things in securing the scholarships for the players is the fact that they are all academically sound with grade point averages of 3.0 or better and their SAT scores ranged from 900-1,100.
“So they are really stellar student-athletes, examples that all the youths behind them can follow,” she summed up. “I’m very proud of that because usually the stereotype is that athletes’ grades cause them to miss their opportunities.
“But they are all academically sound and because of that, they are all eligible for the Ministry of Education’s stellar awards. I can’t let the cat out of the bag. I don’t know if they are getting the awards. All I know is that they are qualified. They applied for it and so the opportunity is there.”
Moss further encouraged the parents, who he called the unsung heroes because they don’t get the recognition that they deserve, especially in soccer.
He noted that it’s a challenge to get their girls to come out, but it’s a fantastic sport to get them involved in at a very young age.
Nairn advised further players to just learn how to manage their academics and athletics because if they want to get to the next level in their education, they will have to be willing to balance the two aspects of their lives. While soccer was the first to be highlighted, Nairn said she’s responsible for all of the disciplines in the school curriculum and will be looking at an initiative for softball next.