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THE new head coach of the Guam National Soccer Team has a few goals in mind for Guam – one of them being how a sport, such as soccer, can be used to help transform a community.
This was the major theme of a talk given Tuesday to the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay by Gary J. White, the Guam Football Association’s new technical director and Men's National Team head coach, and expanded on in an exclusive interview he gave to Variety afterwards.
White, a Union of European Football Associations “A” Licensed coach, is perhaps an ideal person to develop the island’s soccer talent. His most recent post was technical director of Washington Youth Soccer and was directly involved in player and coaching development and elite player development, and worked closely with the Seattle Sounders FC, a Major League Soccer team.
Before that, White served very successfully as the head coach of the national soccer teams of the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. In only one year with the British Virgin Islands team, White helped it move up 28 places in the sport’s world rankings and afterwards, he helped the Bahamas’ team move up a full 55 world ranking spots in seven years.
Naturally, White has similar goals for Guam’s Men’s National Team. At present, the team stands at 193rd out of 208 on FIFA’s international rankings. Given the level of talent of players from Guam, the outstanding facilities that have been created on the island with FIFA matching funds – and the strong support GFA now enjoys from FIFA, the Japan Football Federation and the local community – White said he is sure the team can move into the top 130 in a much shorter time than it took Bermuda.
But this project is about much more than just moving up in the rankings.
The deeper goal is to inspire the young people of Guam. To give them pride in themselves and their community and to provide the more talented ones, no matter what their social circumstances, with a realistic chance to, in White’s words, “use soccer as a vehicle to get a free education and come back to the island as better people ... to get young players to aspire to be somebody from Guam.” He also wants the children of Guam to have heroes they can look up to that “look like them” and come from their own community.
This will be accomplished through an integrated “National Academy” program, in which up to 160 children, both boys and girls, from elementary through high school students, will receive special training five days a week. Slated to start in May, the daily sessions will begin about 4 p.m. Before hitting the pitch, however, the students will first be given a healthy meal, and then they’ll hit the books. Under the guidance of professional math and English tutors, the children will do their homework for the day and after that, the training begins.
For those who stick with the program and prove their talent, soccer scholarships are available at some 14,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. alone.
White is sure that many young people from Guam will someday be receiving them.