Future Sports Club in West Bay has for many years been a conveyor belt of young footballing talent, thanks to the tireless input from technical director Roy “Huta” Ebanks and his dedicated coaches.
Yet the club struggles to retain its youngsters even before they reach senior level because they tend to go to the more successful neighboring clubs Scholars International and Elite Sports Club.
Nevertheless, coach Huta perseveres, producing the little gems annually. The latest nugget is Leighton Thomas Jr, who scored 11 goals in the recent CONCACAF Under-15 tournament here and won the Golden Boot in the process, attracting many admirers and a lot of interest from pro scounts.
Future Sports Club has had a string of success stories from its youth program. Many have progressed from Under-13 to senior level and also become successful students or coaches in their own right, often overseas.
Dion Brandon is now a sports instructor in East End and was head coach of Cayman’s CONCACAF U-15 side. Michael Johnson was assistant coach for Cayman’s U-15 team.
Jamal Ebanks is attending the University of West Virginia, Jordan Ebanks attends Florida International University and Oliver Smith hopes to become a pro footballer and is at the IMG Soccer Academy in Florida after two years at Sporting Lisbon in Portugal.
Other notable former Future Sports Club juniors are Courtney Duval who attends Hartpury College in England, Colby Seymour who is at the London Metropolitan University and Shalisa Barnett who is studying at Kings College in Tennessee.
Kimberly Rivers is furthering her education at ABAC College in Georgia and Hannah Tatum-Seneca is at college in Toronto. Monique Roberts and Amanda Nelson are students at South Georgia State College in Georgia.
Past youth players who have gone on to play for bigger teams include Mark Ebanks and Paul Brown.
Last season was another successful one at Future’, fielding five teams, in the U-15s, U-17s, men’s First Division, men’s reserves and senior women’s.
The U-15 boys were the league runners-up and FA Cup champions. The U-17 boys placed third in the league and were FA Cup runners-up. The women’s side came third in the league and were FA Cup runners-up.
“I am very proud of these U-15 and U-17 players for their hard work, dedication and commitment,” Huta said. “Their average age was only 14.
“They made to improve to achieve the results they did. The statistics are testimony to this. The U-15s played 14 games lost only two and won 12.
“Overall they scored 94 goals and had only 14 against. The U-17s have also vastly improved, considering they were in last place for the 2011/12 season. Future has six payers on the U-15 national team.”
The First Division and reserve men’s teams were for the most part made up of players with an average age of only 18.
“Future Sports Club’s philosophy is to build our men’s and women’s programs from our youth programs which are primarily based on a holistic environment, where our athletes can develop and improve as individuals through sports, with emphasis on enjoyment, work ethic, attitude, discipline and character,” Huta said.
“We believe that all our players are winners, irrespective of game results. We offer everyone an equal opportunity to explore their potential and pursue positive outcomes on and off the field.”
The club motto is: The Way To A Better Life.
“I am most certain that the players worth keeping an eye out for in the future, should they remain focused, continuing to become more disciplined are Leighton Thomas, Ryan Jackson, Steve Tibbetts Jr., Kameron D’Hue, Stephen Rivers, Ricardo Damaso, Alexander Clark, Ashanti Jackson, Roger Ebanks, Akeem Hydes and Joshua McKenzie.”
Huta is grateful to many who have helped build the club through their hard work and multi-tasking; president Sarah Orrett, who doubles as a coach, and Mike Barnett, Olsen Bush, Heather Parsons, Lana Farrington, Orvan “Fisha” Rivers, Michael Johnson and Otis Myles, plus the parents, friends and community members who have helped.
Huta also appreciates the time and effort the players have shown for their loyalty and commitment.
“Loyalty is a rare thing in football nowadays in Cayman where players find it very difficult to remain in a structured football program, this in turn helps to build on discipline and accountability,” he said. “In some instances when their talent is recognized by other successful clubs whose primary goal is winning a trophy, you will find that these clubs will go to any means to source these players to join them with no respect for the players’ current club who has put so much resources into developing them.
“They are even willing to overlook and tolerate small indiscretions, hoping that these talented players will somehow give them a better chance to win a local championship.
“This has proven to be a short-term success but in the long term leads to the destruction of the player.
“More than any other club, Future Sports Club has suffered from this unethical behavior over the years and, as we have done in the past, we are appealing to the Cayman Islands Football Association to protect clubs like us. Case in point is Leighton Thomas who now is the face of Cayman football.”
Coach Huta has been involved in local football for 47 years and coaching for 41 of those. He feels he has witnessed a decline in the game in the past 15 years.
“It seems to be taking place at both the local and national level,” he said. “The biggest contributing factor to this decline has been how we the coaches, leaders and administrators have viewed the game at the local and national level, and that is in a very individualistic and short-term advantage way.
“The mentality is all that I can get for myself and the club is rampant in local football where we have such a fragile amateur club system with very little human and financial resources.”
To address this decline, Huta applauds the football association by investing at the youth development stage, by implementing a grassroots program, plus U-13 and U-15 national development programs. He liked the introduction of the CONCACAF U-15 tournament which puts them in good stead as adults.
“According to CIFA and CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb and the premier, Alden McLaughlin, this tournament was very good for the sports tourism product,” Huta said.
“But what about programs that clubs like Cayman Athletic, Elite, Scholars, East End, Bodden Town, Future, Tigers and Academy are running?
“How are these clubs going to benefit from the tournament because there is very little that corporate Cayman has put into the game locally over the years by sponsoring football at the league and club levels.
“For example, LIME in Jamaica just sponsored the Jamaican schoolboy football competition to the equivalent of $1 million.”
Huta said that some clubs have to field as many as seven teams, which costs between $8,000 and $12,000 a season in Cayman Islands Football Association fees alone and does not include the cost of uniforms and other essential kit.
He added: “The big question is what long-term benefits will this U-15 tournament have on the further development of the game locally and how does CIFA intend to restructure the football at the club and league level so as to attract more public and private sponsorship?
“Without a strong club and league structure, you will find that there will never be a truly strong national structure.”
Rivers, Nasim Gordon, Maikel Ebanks, Liam Griffiths, Jordan Parsons and coach Roy “Huta” Ebanks. Front, Akeem Hydes, Ryan Jackson, Ricardo Damaso, Alexander Clark, Leighton Thomas Jr., Kameron D’Hue and Ashanti Jackson. Goalkeeper: Vinardo Elliot. – PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD