The Game Plan
Nearly two and a half decades ago, in 1990, a partnership was forged between Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) and the St James Football Association with the objective of developing the skills of the talented youngsters who play football in the Western region of the island. It was the coming together of two bodies which had a common vision, and heralded the dawn of a new era in youth football. It was recognised that support is often given to senior level players, including the national team, and that while youth footballers are the ones who are later matriculated into those senior programmes, very often, they are ‘the forgotten ones’.
When Victoria Mutual was founded over a century ago, its mandate was to help Jamaicans from all walks of life to achieve the goal of home ownership. In like manner, the VMBS St James Under-13 programme seeks to provide an avenue for boys and girls from Western Jamaica to explore and develop their football talent. Schools from all over Jamaica’s western region participate – including those from the city as well as the most remote parts of St James. Like our Members, the participants are from a potpourri of backgrounds, but are all united in their passion for the beautiful game.
Playing the Right Way
While there is attention given to honing the skills of the players, the underlying foundation of their game rests upon certain key values which are essential for life success. Players are taught to embrace passion, resilience, heart, discipline, commitment and teamwork, among other things. On the field, there is equality and players are encouraged to Embrace the Oneness which exists within the team.
Coaches and Managers are inspired to build the character of each player and ultimately the team, as, in the words of Ballaz International Managing Director Andre Virtue, ‘they are not just coaching football but coaching lives through the vehicle of football’. Accordingly, he charges coaches to be encouraging and motivating, speaking life over the players with positive words, as they help to unlock the greatness which lies in them.
Today, the competition can take credit for nurturing the careers of outstanding players, who have gone on to represent Jamaica at the highest level. Some of these include:
• Dane Richards
• Richard McCallum
• Deshaun Woolery
• Sean Bucknor
• Eshane Wilkins
• Donovan Ricketts
• Omroy Wilson (Deceased)
Books are Just as Important as Boots
As they seek to achieve greatness, however, education must not be put on the back burner. The institution of sport is one which can and does affect our lives and society in profound, transformational and spectacular ways. However, a solid educational foundation is an important component of a fulfilling and successful life. Student footballers should pay attention to their studies, because their books are just as important as their boots.
The Upcoming Seasons
We take our corporate social responsibility very seriously – it’s a core part of our vision and culture. With this in mind, VMBS will continue to honour the commitment we made 24 years ago, retaining our partnership with the St James Football Association and forging new engagements aimed at maximising the benefits for the athletes. One newly initiated association is with Ballaz International, an organisation whose chief aim is the development of young footballers, employing a system which focuses on coaching the heart of the player.
In a bid to reward participation and encourage excellence among participants, we increased the incentives offered to the 33 primary and preparatory schools taking part in the 24th instalment of the competition. A major addition to the prize package is two scholarships to attend the renowned Ballaz International Football Camp.
Victoria Mutual is proud to have built this lasting legacy, influencing the development of our young and talented footballers, and challenge them to have fun and dream big, as the future belongs to those who believe in the possibility of their dreams.