This new school year marks the fourth consecutive year that the Sandals Foundation is sponsoring 15 Antiguan youths to participate in the Swalings School of Soccer year-long programme. The sponsorship ensures that the young people receive full soccer kits, coaching, mentorship and opportunities to compete in local and international tournaments. This year’s sponsorship will bring to 70 the number of children directly impacted by the Sandals Foundation sponsorship.
“We approached Sandals Foundation with our proposal to help get children “off the street” and into a structured after school programme and I’m still blown away that after four years, we are still going strong,” said Director of Swalings Soccer, Duncan Swatton. “We’ve had children with us from day one, 13 year old boys and girls who will be graduating this year as men and women when our programme for them finishes at 18 years old.”
Swalings School of Soccer engages Antiguan youths, teaching them valuable life skills through the game of football and creating opportunities for them improve their future. Children meet with coaches and mentors each week to participate in action-packed sporting activities in a safe environment for children of all ages. Executive Director of the Sandals Foundation, Heidi Clarke, said the decision to continue the support of the Swalings School of Soccer rests heavily in the need to continue to positively engage youths.
“It has been proven that, through sports, youths have the opportunity to learn valuable life skills which are critical to creating bright futures for themselves and their families. Sports builds community, team-work and empathy and has the ability to teach children to translate a negative into a positive and help them to realize that lessons learned through failure and loss can strengthen and prepare them for their futures,” Clarke said.
Clarke added that the programme also provides the students with opportunities to participate in local and international tournaments and programmes, giving them exposure that many of them would not otherwise have. “We continue to support because we are also very impressed with the dedication of the Swalings team and the impact the program continues to have on the lives of the children.”
Last year, two Swalings School of Soccer students, Malique George and Tarik Williams, were among the team of youths representing Antigua and Barbuda at the Youth Commonwealth Games at U17 Beach Soccer. Today, both George and Williams have been accepted to colleges in the United States of America where they will play Division 1 and Division 2 soccer.
“This is one of the reasons we run the programme, helping children learn through football and then offering opportunities and a chance to excel further in football with coaching from a young age. They are proof that the programme works and shows what we, Swalings and the Sandals Foundation, can do together for the island of Antigua,” Swatton said.
On the local front, Swalings School of Soccer had a remarkably successful year, with the Under 18 team winning the North Coast Juniors Invitational 7 a-side Tournament and placing third in the Cool and Smooth Youth Premier League. The Under 15 team won the Swalings Beach Soccer League and placed a respectable 4th in the Youth Premier League with the Under 13 team placing 2nd in the North Coast Juniors Invitational Tournament.
“We never focus on just the football side of the programme but creating the whole person through the lessons of football. Lessons such as discipline, commitment, and fair play, losing and winning with good grace and respect for officials, coaches and other players. Something which they can take with them into the corporate world,” Statton said.