“Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed”

Representatives from one American college soccer programme were recently in Grand Cayman to train and evaluate local players. Scouts and coaches from Dakota Wesleyan University landed in Cayman last week for a three-day training camp that offered local players insight into what it’s like and what it takes to play football at the college level in the US.

“A lot of them want to be big professional stars, but I’m an honest guy and I asked them ‘what are you doing to get to that professional scene?’ Yeah you can come out here and train locally. That’s good for you but is that going to get you to where you want to be?” said DWU head coach Jose Lopez. “The biggest thing for me is I want to give them another opportunity to play, because the competition in the States is a whole different level and it will take them to that next step. Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Coach Jose Lopez giving instructions during DWU 3 day camp.

Lopez and his team held a camp for players ages 4 to 15 years old, and another for players 16 to 23 years old. Caymanian Andrew Browning, of East End, plays for the Tigers. He was one of those in attendance. Browning recently wrapped up his senior season with WDU, scoring one goal on six shots in six games played. The camp was made possible after the Department of Sports, East End MLA Arden McLean, The Cayman Islands Football Association, Isaac Rankine and East End UFC head coach Dion Brandon all joined together to bring the university recruiters to the island.

“I think there’s a lot of talent here that needs to be seen and I am in a position that I could provide that opportunity, especially for kids to get an education,” said Brandon. “We all know to make it to the next level isn’t impossible, but it’s very hard to achieve. So, I’m trying to be realistic, and approach it from an educational standpoint by providing junior colleges and four-year universities.”

DWU has produced players who are now playing in the Major League Soccer in the United States and Germany’s Bundesliga. The programme plays in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which is considered the fourth-tier college sports association in the US. The Tigers finished 3‑10‑3 overall this year, and 2‑8-1 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. Lopez said Cayman’s players can make their football-related dreams come true if they have a clear path.

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“Everybody here is pretty technical. All 26 of the boys that I’ve seen out here can play. They have the talent but there’s still little things that we can fix with more coaching and consistency. There are about six to eight guys that are really good.”

“It has exceeded my expectations,” Brandon said. “We are looking to build this relationship and continue to see it grow for the years to come.”

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