It is often said that the island of Jamaica breeds athletic talent, youngsters oozing athletic ability across various sporting disciplines from a very early age. Outside of track and field, this hasn’t quite translated to global sporting success across sports. Most Jamaicans can agree that the proper coaching and harnessing of that talent is crucial to achieving such success.
Enter Ballaz Academy.
The St. Andrew-based Academy has been in operation for 20 years and have a vision to develop children not only in the game of football, but they strive to develop all rounded individuals. Exposure to new surroundings, other cultures, coaching methods and even playing conditions are some methods the Academy has been focusing on this year.
In December 2022, they took four teams to Coral Springs, Florida where they competed in the 3rd Annual Springs Holiday Cup. The Springs Holliday Cup is a tournament hosted by the Springs Soccer Club located in Coral Springs, Florida. This tournament sees teams from across Florida entering to compete. The tournament offers three levels of competition for each age category namely; Gold, Silver and Bronze level. This competition is also open for teams U9 through to U20 for both boys and girls. There is also a special division for U8 teams.
Ballaz entered four age categories: U13 competed in the Gold division, while U12, U11 and U10 competed in the Silver division. Throughout the competition each team was guaranteed 3 matches and the tournament was in a round robin format with the top 2 teams at the end of the 3 matches competing for the championship. Though the competition officially kicked off on December 16, the Ballaz Academy started their campaign on December 17
The U13 team started their campaign against Parkland Soccer Club at the Mullins Field, which saw them succumb to a 2-0 defeat. The boys then brilliantly regrouped and played their second game at Cypress Park, where they came out victorious against Boynton 2-0, with goals coming from Christopher Reid and Richard Clarke.
The U12 team took on their first opponents, Strikers Miami FC, at Cypress Field where the team gave a convincing performance to win their game 4-1. The goals came from Jude Davis (2), Orique Gordon and Jacob Smith. With a slight change in their fixtures and venue, the boys then went on to play their second game at Terramar Park, where they faced Springs Soccer Club. They had faced this club once before in a practice game prior to the tournament, where they came out winners, and again they showed their class to win the match 3-1. Malik Cambpell, Jaden Virtue and Jude Davis, who scored his third goal of the tournament, all got on the scoresheet.
Despite their best efforts, The U11 team suffered a 1-0 defeat in their first match against Team Boca. There was no time to wallow in defeat as the team headed straight to Terramar Park, where they played their second game against Parkland Soccer Club. Despite the game being called off early due to the unsportsmanlike conduct from the opponents’ bench and rowdy supporters, the early morning defeat was a distant memory for the Ballaz boys, as they defeated Parkland Soccer Club 1-0, with the winning goal coming from Jashonie Gaynor.
U10 showed much composure and skill as they defeated their opponents Strikers Miami FC. Cahvanie White got on the scoresheet twice, along with teammate Makiri D’Aguilar and Braden Burkett, to make it a convincing 4-0 victory. They next faced Cooper City Optimist Cobras, where they conceded an early goal, but showed their resilience to come back and take this one 4-1. Goals came from Kirk Holgate, Cahvanie White and Makiri D’Aguilar.
At the end of Saturday’s action, the U13 and U11 were in a must win situation to have any chance of advancing to the finals, while the U12 needed to await the winner of a playoff between Strikers Miami and Parkland Soccer Club, to play their semi final match for a spot in the final. The U10 having won both their games, would need to win their final game to secure their place in the final.
Day two of the competition saw the U12 start their day facing Parkland Soccer Club in the semi final of their age division. They did not disappoint as they defeated their opponents 3-0, with Malik Campbell getting his second goal of the tournament, and Joshua-Liam Hibbert and Shemar Cameron each scoring their first goal for the tournament.
The U10 team then kicked off their final game to qualify for the finals where they faced Galacticos Soccer Academy, who based on the point standings, would be their competitors for the finals match. This match saw Makiri D’Aguilar scoring 3 goals to make it the only hat trick for Ballaz at the tournament, helping to secure a 3-0 win and confirm their place in the U10 finals.
Sunday’s first U13 and the U11 matches kicked off at the same time, with both teams needing to secure a win to have any chance of making it to the finals in their respective divisions. The U13s started their game against FC Prime 2010 Elite strongly, however they conceded early to be down 1-0 early in the game. The Ballaz rallied and came back with a goal by Jevon Richards to level the game at 1-1. The comeback was not to be, as they conceded another goal and were ultimately defeated 2-1. This defeat ended their chance of making it to the final.
The U11 went head to head with Springs Soccer Club, where they gave a convincing performance to win 3-1 and advance to the final. This game saw Khyel Dale on the scoresheet twice with a goal also coming from Jacob Heron. This result meant Ballaz Academy qualified for the U12, U11 and U10 finals, an amazing achievement considering that Ballaz Academy was the only overseas-based team that entered the aforementioned age-group competitions.
Of the three teams in the finals, the U12s were the first to play. They faced Florida Kraze Krush and the Ballaz Boys duly crushed them as goals from Jude Davis, Jacob Smith and Joshua-Liam Hibbert led the team to a 3-1 victory and become the U12 Silver Division Champions. This meant the U12s secured the first title across all teams in the academy at the tournament.
The U11s then faced Team Boca once again, this time it was for the U11 Silver Division Championship. In the first half the Ballaz conceded a goal and despite their best efforts to comeback into the game they were unable to get on the scoresheet. As the final whistle blew, Ballaz were defeated 1-0 to take home the silver medal in their U11 Silver division.
In the final game for the Ballaz Academy, the U10s went up against Galacticos Soccer Academy. Despite defeating Galacticos with ease in their previous encounter, this one was not quite as easy. In fact, it was arguably the most exciting encounter of the day.
Galacticos came out strong and went up 1-0 before half time, however, Brayden Burkett equalized for Ballaz not long after. As the game drew to a close with the prospect of penalties surely running through the minds of the players and coaches, Ballaz were awarded a corner kick, which Makiri D’Aguilar converted to a goal to secure a hard fought 2-1 victory at the death for the team and the U10 Silver Division title.
At the end of the tournament the Ballaz Academy left with two Championships, coming from the U12 and the U10 teams and a well earned second place from the U11 team. In all, it was a very successful showing from the Ballaz Academy, and all the boys have walked away with international competition experience under their belt which will most certainly aid their development.
On to the next challenge for the young Ballaz!