FORMER national football striker and captain Kenwyne Jones has urged Pro League players to put in the sacrifices needed to better themselves on and off the field.
The 33-year-old ex-W Connection, Southampton, Sunderland, Stoke City and Cardiff City player was speaking at a TT Pro League player development seminar at the VIP Lounge, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo yesterday.
And Jones also appealed to the players to be aware of the contracts they sign, so they can avoid pitfalls later down the road.
Players from W Connection, Police FC, North East Stars, Morvant Caledonia United, San Juan Jabloteh and St Ann’s Rangers were present for the initiative.
“Your career, barring a few injuries – once everything goes right – could (be) 15 years,” said Jones. “Some people, God bless them, they have careers even longer. They were able to do that because they actually spent time on themselves and immersing themselves on their craft.”
He reflected on his days travelling to school in St Anthony’s College, Westmoorings from his house in Chaguanas.
“On some days with no money for lunch or to travel home, I used to get bus tickets and walk from St Anthony’s to city gate after training, to be able to get a bus to go home,” he said. “I used to travel from Chaguanas at five in the morning because we had training before school. I had to do that in order to succeed.
“Now (there are) a lot of men here today that if they have to do that type of thing they ain’t doing it,” he added. “They’re not willing to do (that) because they have to sacrifice. If you as a person don’t want to sacrifice, you’re going to get nowhere.”
On the topic of sacrifice, Jones said, “For 17 years I missed Carnival, I missed New Year’s Day, I missed my birthday because I (was) always training. I missed Christmas because I was in the snow training. I wasn’t seeing my family because I’m going in a hotel, I had a game the next day. Those are the things you’ll have to sacrifice if you want to make it.”
The muscular striker also mentioned a recent conversation he had with a current Pro League player over lack of salaries.
“If (a contract is) flashy, and it has some zeroes at the end, you’re walking away and smiling,” he said. “Between the lines, they’ll have some things put in there that wouldn’t make you see those zeroes for (many) years. I have a friend – a former teammate – leave this country, go on a few trials and signed with a Portuguese club.
“Obviously that’s a different language, he didn’t seek any way to have that contract translated so that he could understand it in English. You know what end up happening to him? He ended up having to leave the club, go in a restaurant and (had) to wash wares to make money.”
Jones added, “If you don’t (have) that knowledge, you’ll end up in problems like a lot of people in the league itself, and a lot of people worldwide.”
Jones also urged players to understand the importance of media interviews, which can go a long way in developing their personal brand and image.
In an earlier session, when asked about his future ambitions, Jones responded, “Where I would start is definitely youth development, and I’ll take it from there. I can’t predict the future but, as a starting point, would definitely be youth.”
He described the national team’s participation at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany as the highlight of his career.
“I was really lucky to be on that team at that time,” he said. “It was an eye-opening experience because there is no better way to be a part of history than to be with the likes of those players representing Trinidad and Tobago.”
Julia Baptiste, CEO of the Pro League, described yesterday’s initiative as “a very successful player seminar.”
Baptiste hopes to have two more seminars during this season to help the current crop of local players.
She also expressed her gratitude towards Jones; former journalist Nicole Duke-Westfield, who spoke about social media; and First Citizens representative Kevon Durham.
About the involvement of First Citizens, Baptiste said, “First Citizens has really been the organisation that has conducted the player development seminar for a number of years. Generally, it has been on finances, in this instance the First Citizens corporate communications department is really helping us conduct this, so we decided to go with communications as the main emphasis.”