With the Digicel Kick Start Clinics programme now in its fifth year, John Barnes has seen it evolve over the years. We asked him what changes he has seen and how he views the programme today.
“Since its launch five years ago, the Digicel Kick Start Clinics programme has improved as it has evolved. While the quality of talent has remained, we have changed the format a little, now coaching boys a little younger (the under 16s) – which is a much better age. Also, while before it was the best eight or so boys chosen went to a Premier League training facility in England, since last year we are bringing these coaches to the Digicel Academy here in the Caribbean. What that means is that instead of eight boys only, at least three footballers from each country will be chosen to be put on display for coaches from Chelsea. This to me is the ideal situation for all – the boys are in their own environment which means they are more comfortable and more boys get the chance to show their skills.”
“Indeed, in terms of the talent across the Caribbean and Central America, it is always as I expect it to be – very high. There is a whole lot of talent – both physical and technical – but I always stress the importance of the mentality that is required to be successful. If we look at the emergence of the teams in Panama, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, there are more and more players going on to play on the international stage and I believe that is as a result of the attitudes these players have. If success in football was strictly as a result of ability, then the Argentinians would win everything! It’s all about applying attitude to ability, and the Jamaican athletes competing in the Olympics at the moment are a fine example of doing just that.”
“I grew up in Jamaica, so I know there is lots of skill and talent, but if you want examples of what you can achieve with the right mentality, you only have to look at the Koreans and other Asian teams. They are not as physically good as the Caribbean teams, but their attitude is what gets them through to the World Cup time and time again.”
In terms of the Digicel Kick Start Clinics, we asked John how important they are, what are his hopes for the boys, and the learnings he would like them to take back with them to their local clubs.
“There is no doubt that it’s very important for young players to get into the right habits from an early age – as young as possible in fact. And the Digicel Kick Start Clinics are giving these players that chance – empowering them to have the desire and attitude to go on and become professional footballers.”
“But the consistency of play and attitude is of most importance for these boys. It’s easy to have the right attitude with me for three or four days – but what’s important is taking that back and being consistent with it. And attitude applies to not being disheartened because they were not chosen to go to the Academy or because they are not already playing for Chelsea or Man United, but instead trying constantly to improve. A good attitude has to be consistent as long as these boys want to become professional footballers.”
“Overall, taking a long term view, my hope for these boys is that they would go on to have successful careers in football. The fact is, not all will go on to play at an international level, but. if they stay in their own countries and help their own structures develop and improve, then to me it is all worthwhile.”
In conclusion, he hopes that the aspiring young footballers of the Digicel Kick Start Clinics, maximise their potential and said; “For me, the ethos of the Clinics is to empower these young boys to follow their dreams and maximise their potential. That means not giving up at the first hurdle. Perhaps you won’t play for a European team, but giving up because of that is not the right attitude and it’s important to remember you can still go on to play at different levels as well as pass on your experience and knowledge to other youngsters coming up through the ranks.”
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