NEWS

Girlz goalie McClure aims to touch lives with kiddies academy

Sunday, April 04, 2021

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At the moment, Nicole McClure may have only two clients at her fledgling football nursery.

Those maybe unflattering numbers now, but based on the big vision of the Reggae Girlz goalkeeper and World Cup veteran, things are bound to multiply for her yet-to-be named operation, which is apparently a work in progress.

Of course, to kickstart a football academy in the height of a pandemic was never going to be easy, but the New Yorker — who has used social media to bring awareness to her venture — courageously opened the proverbial doors to her “enthusiastic” young tutees.

Most people will picture McClure tending goal for Jamaica, but few may know of her exploits as a coach, which she started some seven years ago — almost as long as she has played at the first-class level.

“I have been coaching youth since 2013, which is one year after I became a professional player. Now that the weather is taking a turn for the better here in New York City, I've begun promoting as of this month,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

“I have always enjoyed working with youth players and this [grass roots academy] is something that has been part of my career goals for quite some time,” she said.

McClure, 31, who has played extensively as professional in Europe, says students joining her set-up can expect to be taught the rudiments of the game in an atmosphere of positive energy.

“Firstly, players will have fun and I bring a lot of positive energy to each session and I make sure each player is comfortable.

“Building trust and rapport is of utmost importance to me as a coach. Also, my players should expect to not only be challenged physically, but mentally as well,” said the former Scion Swift custodian of the Northern Ireland women's league.

McClure, who was born in New York to Jamaican parents, says her focus is on helping kids — boys and girls — aged five to 12. She notes with pride that her current two students is a stepping stone to greater things to come.

“In the future, I hope to see my training organisation as the starting point for youth players. My goal is to provide a safe and fun space for kids to get involved in football and help guide them to the next level.

“At the moment, I'm working with two kids, but I know it's important for me to remain patient as I get the word out.

“As I grow the business, I like to believe I'm never alone as I have a strong support system in my friends and family. I have a good professional relationship with American Challenge, a sporting goods company, as well as DKay Henry Soccer, another youth soccer training organisation based in Brooklyn. I will collaborate with these two companies in the months to come,” McClure shared.

Despite competition from more popular American sports in the tristate area, the University of South Florida alumna thinks with the right strategy and public sensitisation football, or soccer, can hold its own.

“Where I grew up in South Jamaica, Queens, basketball leads the way in youth sports. If kids were interested in football (soccer), they'd have to travel east to Long Island, where interest is and the competition is strongest. My goal is to get kids from my area excited about the beautiful game at a young age. Football is for everyone and I feel that it should be easily accessible everywhere,” McClure reasoned.

She says playing professionally in Europe for almost eight years and representing the Jamaica national team has armed her with the requisite knowledge and experience to guide the teaching process.

“Playing at the highest level certainly has strengthened my mentality. The lessons I learned shaped my mindset on and off the pitch. With this new challenge, I hope to become somewhat of a mentor to youth players and share some of my experiences with them,” noted McClure, who also attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Having gone to the Fifa Women's 2019 France World Cup, she claims, has boosted her credentials in unquantifiable ways.

“I think my experience as a World Cup player benefits my business because it shows that I have extensive knowledge of the game and therefore can instil it in our youth,” she said.

With the coronavirus pandemic still a matter of grave concern to all, and it's potential to obstruct and even derail businesses and general life a reality, McClure thinks it requires proactive thinking and action to navigate its tentacles.

“Safety has always been my priority. I will have no more than six players grouped at a time to ensure that social distancing is enforced. Football is a contact sport, so there is a risk factor there. I will do my best to keep the players safe following the guidelines sanctioned by the CDC (Centres of Disease Control and Prevention),” she noted.

McClure, who holds a US Soccer Grassroots Coaching Licence, says that her current unattached status has given her wiggle room to put more effort into her direction.

“At the moment [being without a club], allows me to focus more on helping youth players reach their potential, as well as introducing youth to the game,” she said.

As far as the Reggae Girlz go, McClure said she will be ready if called up on.

“Should the right opportunity present itself, I will remain honoured to wear the black, green and gold,” she ended.