In 2012, Dwight Dégazon left Saint Lucia to take up a football (soccer) scholarship at a little-known junior college in Missouri. Two years later, having moved on to a four-year school and a semi-professional outfit, he has zero regrets. In fact, the 22-year-old central defender says he is anxious to maintain his upward momentum and justify his faith in himself and the encouragement he’s had from others.
Originally from Soufriere, Dwight attended Castries Comprehensive. Upon graduation in 2009, he was named student of the year, copping eight subject awards. From there, he appeared to be following the normal trajectory for many bright young Saint Lucians. He attended Sir Arthur Lewis Community College for two years, in the Division of Technical Education and Management Studies.
But unbeknownst to even some of his closest friends, Dwight’s combination of athletic ability and academic acumen led him to enter into correspondence with a number of schools in the United States. Eventually, he would end up on a full scholarship at Jefferson College in St Louis, Missouri.
Since then, the 6’1″ 175-lb stopper has done nothing but raise his level and seek new challenges. He has gone on to accept a scholarship at Missouri Baptist University, and is playing with semi-pro setup FC Bordo.
Dwight admits that his studies in electronics engineering at SALCC helped prepare him for the degree in information technology towards which he is working. But he says that on the field, there is virtually no comparison.
“As opposed to football in Saint Lucia, there is a general sense of structure or organization,” he explains. “Technique wise football here is more polished. Physically there is more emphasis and resources are placed on our development, improvement and preparation for competition. Workout routines and fitness schedules are sent to everyone and periodical fitness tests as well as drug tests are done.”
“As well as reinforcing the importance of the fundamentals of the game, and practicing in top quality facilities, injuries I had from Saint Lucia were taken care of, because of the availability of good doctors and physios here,” he goes on.
The transition from Jefferson to Missouri Baptist was even more jarring, in its own way. At the lower level, Dwight and his team had been used to success, but his new school struggled through the just-concluded season.
“I captained last year’s Jefferson team to regional and district champs, and got the all American and National Junior College 2014 MVP award,” says Dwight.
“We were ranked #5 in the nation, and I had three NCAA Division 1 offers, but I could not get cleared by the eligibility centre because I did two years at SALCC. So I chose Missouri Baptist, which is affiliated to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, NAIA, where I was eligible.
“In the NAIA there are better players [than junior college], it’s a bigger school, with tougher competition. But the main difference is fitness. My previous school recruited skillful players, which is the main reason why we were ranked. But definitely the biggest difference is conditioning. There is a greater fitness level among all NAIA competing schools, as well as the presence of more international competition from Brazil, England, France, South America etc.”
Whilst he is working towards completing his studies in 2016, Dwight is trying to get the attention of professional teams at various levels in the United States. He says he is hoping to catch the eye of the technical staff of Saint Lucia’s national team, and he intends to seek professional trials in the United States and Europe. But even if those opportunities don’t come, he will be able to fall back on his degree.
Pushed early on by then CCSS football coach Dennis ‘Skip’ Didier, along with former coaches Arnold Clouden and Dexter Cooper, Dwight played for Saint Lucia at the Windward Islands School Games, along with the likes of Zaine Pierre. A member of the Nyabinghi club, he has had opportunities in the under-19 and under-23 ranks and has trained with the senior national team.
And, although he adjusted well to the collegiate game, thanks mainly to his international experience, Dwight insists that he would have been further along as a footballer if he had been in a better training environment from a much tenderer age.
With that in mind, the young man has begun reaching out to even younger players as well as coaches in Saint Lucia, with a view to helping them chart the way forward. “I think it all comes down to incentives and education,” he asserts.
Dwight feels that others can follow his example, and that of players who went before him, like the Blanchard brothers, Ricardo and Shane, or Venus Cherry. “In the end it comes down to education,” he posits. “If you do not have decent grades you’re already at a setback. But I’ve spoken to some players and they are trying to put themselves in a position for opportunities like I did. I think the fact that I did it all on my own motivated them to, and they have been asking me for advice on what to do.”
“If there is a reason or reward to work hard, athletes will strive for it,” says Dwight. “Mine was to go beyond Saint Lucia. I have been given the opportunity of a free education at university and college, and the opportunity to be developed and coached by top coaches and also to meet professional players. The training I have received here has taught me the importance of valuing conditioning and fitness as well as physical health and exposing me to a greater knowledge of the game and how these aspects improve my game.”
Presently, Dwight is in his junior (third) year at Missouri Baptist. With the 2014 season over, he is focusing on his studies, and looking forward to rejoining Bordo next year. In the meantime, he is staying in touch with his coaches from Castries Comprehensive, Nyabinghi and Soufriere, as well as Valley Soccer and Sacred Cows, to help put more Saint Lucians in position to emulate his achievements.