The word is spreading around American coaches that Cayman is an untapped goldmine for talented youngsters looking for sports scholarships to further their education and realise their sporting potential in the process.
Which is why Johnny Bomar was in George Town this week. He is an assistant track coach and faculty member at King College in Bristol, Tennessee where emerging Olympic hopeful Tyrell Cuffy’s sprinting skills are being nurtured. Cuffy was only a fraction of a second outside the Olympic 200 metre qualifying time in the summer and is expected to reach that mark in the new year in time for Beijing in August.
Bomar, invited over by Cayman’s track maestro Kenrick Williams, was here to recruit ‘some of this great talent in the Cayman Islands that you have’.
King scholarships vary from person to person. They give academic money if applicants achieve the right grades which is usually worth $8,000-$9,000 per annum and they give athletic aid which can range all the way up to full tuition.
‘I’ve seen a couple of young men that I’m interested in and a couple of young ladies who are too young, still in high school but they have a lot of potential. But I’ll settle for about four guys right now.’
What are the advantages of going to King as opposed to larger colleges with bigger reputations? ‘First off, they get a top notch education from a well respected college. King College degrees usually carry a lot of weight and also they will get excellent coaching and facilities in track and field. ‘These are very talented guys so I think they can get a pretty generous scholarship. Two of them are the brothers Kemar and Maxwell Hyman. They are very talented and I think they’ll be a great addition to any athletic programme. And the other guys I don’t care to mention because they haven’t done the appropriate stuff yet. We can recruit who are not in high school but not in their senior year yet. I try to stick to the seniors.
‘Coach Williams brought me down here and introduced me to his up and coming athletes to see if I had a need for them and I’m very impressed with all the athletes in Cayman. Even soccer, I’m going to go home and spread the word to all my other coaches that they need to come down here too.’
Cuffy, 19, is showing great early season indoor form. ‘We’ve had one track meet on 1 December and he ran the 55 metres in 8.42 seconds which immediately qualified him for the NAI national championships. First meet of the season. We were just basically going to tune up and practice and he’s already hit last year’s mark. And the championships are not until March.’
Does Cuffy have a good chance of going to Beijing? ‘He has all the potential. I really think he can. But he’s such a young man, his shot to really do well will be the one after Beijing (London). Being 19 and already getting to that level, the sky’s the limit for him.’
There are five other Caymanian students on scholarships at King, including fellow sprinter Robert Ibeh. Bomar expects plenty more to join them to form a Caymanian enclave.
Williams gives his blessings to anyone qualifying for King as he is impressed with the set up there. ‘King College is one of those small schools that has a close relationship with our athletes. We have Tyrell and Robert there and the interest the head coach and Johnny show in those boys speaks volumes for our programme. That’s one of the programmes I want to get our kids in. A programme where the coach cares enough to see that they are doing their academics, they rest properly and they train hard. And that also augurs well for our programme.
‘We have six focus sports here and this is the only country where if you want to play football, cricket, swim or whatever you have to be coached by a well qualified coach. So everything we do here it’s not like other countries where athletes are not trained. We have coaches who are highly skilled to impart knowledge to the kids, so yes, this is definitely a goldmine.’