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'Don't forget about the academic side'
...urges Digicel CEO Justin Morin, a former St George's Manning Cup player" sl-processed="1">
'Don't forget about the academic side'
...urges Digicel CEO Justin Morin, a former St George's Manning Cup player
In 2017 when Digicel announced Justin Morin as their new chief executive officer (CEO), many thought he was another Irish native being given the top post.
But Morin, despite his “foreign” look, is very much Jamaican and unknown to many, played schoolboy football for St George's College, including Pepsi (Under-13), Colts (Under-15) and three years at Manning Cup level.
Therefore it was an easy decision for him to sanction Digicel's sponsorship of schoolboy football to the tune of $75m over three years, after rivals FLOW's contract expired.
Morin, who was a part of that awesome winning St George's College Manning Cup team of 1992, was the ideal student athlete who balanced academics and sport to perfection.
“It was tough. football takes a lot of your time, but what's good about the season was the most intense time to train was during the summer so that helps, and once the season came on board you maintain your training regiment during the week,” said Morin, as he sat in his Ocean Boulevard office, strategically placed with glass window overlooking the scenic waterfront in downtown Kingston.
“But you cut it [training] down to one a day rather than two a day that you normally do in the summer. And there is a lot of emphasis from the school in keeping us focused on academics. Those who are slipping a little bit maybe skip a training and get extra support after school in terms of extra lessons or teachers chipping in to help student athletes,” he explained.
Morin didn't slip up. In fact, he moved on to the University of Florida where he gained a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering and made his mark in the Middle East working at Saudi Telecom, the leading telecommunications group in that region with a market value of US$40-billion.
“For me personally it was a little different approach. I would go home late at nights and then study and then do the home- work. A lot of boys didn't really have that because of where they lived. Some guys didn't even have proper electricity and some, when they went home there were a lot of distractions,” he pointed out.
“So George's normally keep them at school and substitute training for extra lessons and try to balance it that way,” Morin added.
“But most of the boys got scholarships and that was one of the benefits of playing Manning Cup at St George's, because you knew that if you played at that level chances are you will be getting a scholarship,” he revealed.
Morin, who also worked at GraceKennedy, started as a right back during his Under-13 and Under-15 years, but that had to be changed when he came under the tutelage of head coach Neville “Bertis” Bell, who he said deployed a 5-3-2 formation instead of the 4-4-2 he was accustomed to all his life.
“Learning his style was different than what we played in Pepsi and Colts. We played 4-4-2, he played the Brazil formation of 5-3-2, one sweeper, two markers at the back, and overlapping wing backs. In Manning Cup right back had to be fast and overlapping, so I shifted to marker — that's where I basically played for three years,” said Morin.
But despite warming the bench mostly in his first year at Manning Cup, Morin was more than happy to watch his team demolish everything in front of them on their way to lifting the Manning and Walker Cup titles in 1992, with a team he described as one of the best of all time.
That team had the fearsome striker Ali Rose and Troy Robinson, co-captains Marvin McLean and Trevor “Ernie” Spencer — the latter Morin believes is the best schoolboy player he saw.
The outstanding goalkeeper Edsel “Robbie” Scott, Calvin Hunter, Kevin Phillipson, Shane Coates, Dwayne Prendergast, Gregory Simmonds plus National Under-17 players Andy “Bomber” Williams and Wayne Simpson also coming off the bench.
“It was so competitive that we had Jamaican players on the bench. That was my first Manning Cup season. I was in the 22 but mostly on the bench, as you can imagine. It was a season of watching these guys from the sidelines and training as the second eleven against the first eleven, struggling against some of those guys but obviously learning a lot,” said Morin.
“No disrespect to those teams, but I would put the '92 team as one of the best. It has a lot to do with the pedigree with where that team is coming from. Those players were 'ballers' in their own rights and it was a collection of a group of guys that played together for seven years. There was just a really good understanding and again the fighting spirit...we were never going to lose. Many of those players became professionals and others gained scholarships. It certainly put them as one of the best, in my opinion,” reiterated Morin.
A former St Peter and Paul Prep School star, Morin told the Jamaica Observer that he was destined to attend St George's College, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.
“I was at prep school when I was about eight… I was going to every St George's match; I didn't miss one, So you can imagine and the coach at the time was Dennis Ziadie, and he was like God,” said Morin, in a soft tone.
“I didn't know one kid that did not want to play for Dennis. So from seven or eight I knew where I was going. I knew I was going to play Manning Cup for St George's one day. Nothing was going to stop me,” he recalled.
But having achieved all that while balancing his academics and sports, Morin's advise for today's footballers would be to ensure they don't forget about the academic side.
“It is really important. Up to high school level and Manning Cup there is a limit, and they have to think about the future. At that level you have to be thinking about where you gonna go next,” said Morin.
“One of the ways out of this country is through scholarships. The opportunities are there. find that balance; don't forget the academic side. there is help out there if you need it. Coaches are usually the first ones to give their players that support,” he noted.
“Stick to what you love. If you really love football find some way to really make it work and incorporate that into a career,” he added.