Smith gives kids chance to impress in UK
Former national cricket captain Clay Smith has provided another outlet in the UK to help young Bermudians fulfil their academic and athletic ambitions.
Since moving to Sussex, England, earlier this year Smith has used his resources to get nine young Bermudians accepted at cricket and football clubs and schools in the region.
All of the youngsters currently reside with the former star cricketer and footballer who plays an integral role in their everyday lives.
“They are based out of a home I have provided for them and I basically oversee everything,” Smith said. “I oversee their accommodation, transportation to and from training and games, their education and meeting with the teachers and that type of stuff.”
Smith says he was driven to help others broaden their athletic horizons overseas at an early age after being denied the opportunity to do so himself.
“When I was younger I always wanted the opportunity to play in England myself but I never got that opportunity until later in my career when I had a stint playing club cricket with Benwell Cricket Club in Newcastle,” Smith said. “When I look at these young men I think it’s better they get over here earlier so they can get as much exposure and experience at a younger age and I’m just providing an opportunity for them to possibly move onto bigger and better things.
“It’s basically providing these guys with an opportunity to come overseas to gain experience playing in a different environment and culture.”
Smith was also inspired to help others by his son Jonte who moved to the UK two years ago to enhance his chances of realising a dream of playing professional football.
The teenage striker has since been signed by English League One side Crawley Town.
“I saw the path that my son took and people were asking me questions about how did I go about doing it and is it hard for them to get their kids over here and I just thought of the idea of offering the opportunity for boys to go across,” he said.
“Since August I’ve put nine boys into various schools in the Crawley area and attached them to football and cricket teams. Some are currently playing football while others are out here doing indoor cricket during the winter and once the spring kicks in they will be training in the nets right until the cricket season starts.”
Among the youngsters currently under Smith’s care are Shamere Ming, Omari Curtis, Giovonni Johnson and Rayshun Howes, Nhyrobi Carmichael, Delray Rawlins, Khalif Wiliams, Antonio Darrell and Taj Grant.
“Some of them are keen to look at this as an opportunity to go onto bigger and better things athletically while some are interested more in academics,” Smith said. “It’s not just about football and cricket but academically making sure they’re having a future as well.”
Smith has managed to get the youngsters accepted at football clubs Maidenbower FC and Newdigate FC and Ifield Cricket Club. They all attend school at either Hazelwick School, Thomas Bennett Community College, Oriel Schoolor West Sussex Central College. All of the boys will remain in the UK until the end of the current school year next July.
Smith said the youngsters, who range in ages 14 to 18, have made a pretty smooth transition to living in their new surroundings.
“For the most part the boys have made the transition pretty good but the only thing that’s been a hiccup for them is the cold weather,” he said. “The weather has played a major factor with a lot of them who are playing football.
“Having to play football in these types of conditions is part and parcel of making that next step and we’ve seen some of the boys mature and do some positive things.”