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Football programme seeks to inspire children

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Team effort: from left, Victor Scott Primary PE teacher Nuri Latham, Conyers, Dill and Pearman CFO Stephen DeSilva, students Nul’Lay Washington, Rumbi Gumede and Latavia Hayward, principal Valerie Williams and football coach Andrew Bascome(Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

They don’t allow footballs on the field during playtime at Victor Scott Primary School.

The children were getting into too many fights over the balls.

Principal Valerie Williams is hoping Bermuda national football team coach Andrew Bascome will help change that soon.

He’s behind a programme that uses the sport to instill positive behaviour in five- to seven-year-olds.

Victor Scott took on his ABC Football Foundation programme in September.

“You have to understand this is not about the next football star,” said Mr Bascome, an alumni of the school and one of the most talented footballers of his generation. “This is about character building, which is what sports should be about.”

He started the programme because he was horrified to see the behaviour of some parents and players at youth football games. It’s now in seven primary schools; about 400 students participate. “It is clear that a lot of them weren’t getting positive messages at home,” Mr Bascome said. “You need to start teaching children basic things like sharing, teamwork and obedience when they are little. Otherwise, it is too late.”

Three of ABC’s biggest fans at Victor Scott are seven-year-olds Latavia Hayward and Rumbi Gumede, and Nul’Lay Washington, six. All three of them want to be professional footballers.

“Sometimes the boys won’t let us play, but I don’t care,” said Latavia. “We’ve got our own little team going. Football is fun. It is my favourite sport. We do a lot of foot things and hand things in practice. If you are the goalkeeper you have to keep your eye on the ball; if you don’t want them to score you have to be fast. We played against the boys once and it was a draw.”

With half of the young footballers in the programme female, league play is the next step.

“We are trying to form a girls’ league,” Mr Bascome said. “We have tried different age-group combinations. Sometimes their parents don’t want them to be a part of what they see as a negative atmosphere in local football clubs. We are working on that problem.”

His wife, Selina, helps with the coaching.

“Girls need more attention and more encouragement,” she said. “Girls tend to listen and pay attention better, but the boys tend to be more competitive.”

“They play rough,” Nul’Lay said.

Added Mrs Bascome: “Physically and mentally, the boys go at it more but I find that if the girls play with the boys they get into that level of challenge. They pick up different football tricks from watching the boys. I think they need a female coach on the field because girls tend to come with their own issues. They go into puberty earlier than boys. They are more body-conscious.”

Mr Bascome spends a lot of time talking with the children about respect. He believes that many of his students are not being taught the right messages at home.

He told Rumbi, Latavia and Nul’Lay: “I teach you that if you show respect to your teachers they will show you respect in return. When you come to class and everything is set up for you, that is your teachers showing how much they appreciate your involvement.”

The girls nodded solemnly.

Mrs Williams said she believed ABC was a great way to get students to come out of their shells.

“We have one little boy that walks around as quiet as a mouse,” she said. “He is so shy. But when you see him out on that field during football practice, he just comes alive.”

Mr Bascome said he was deeply inspired by football coach, the late Harold “Doc” Dowling, as a child.

“He taught me about respect and what the game was really about,” he said. “That was so significant in my development as a person and a coach.”

Lawyers Conyers, Dill & Pearman donated $120,000 to support three years of ABC Football.

Said CFO Stephen DeSilva: “We could have donated our money to something more high profile but we thought that a programme like this would give us the biggest bang for our buck.

“For us, it’s not so much about football, but about the community involvement.”

Coach Andrew Bascome giving football tips to Victor Scott Primary students Nul’Lay Washington, Latavia Hayward and Rumbi Gumede(Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Life skills: coach Andrew Bascome gives football tips to Nul’Lay Washington, Latavia Hayward and Rumbi Gumede(Photograph by Blaire Simmons)