March 19, 2013 Pohnpei, FSM - 62 year old Stan Foster, an engineer and surveyor by trade, has been playing or coaching soccer for over 50 years. As a volunteer with Australian Volunteers International he is currently posted in Yap to work with the Yap Sports Council under the direction of Mikail Loyola to help the State develop Soccer.
Foster is currently in Pohnpei for a two week visit during which he has been training current Pohnpei State players, helping to develop and train potential coaches, and conducting clinics at High Schools and at the College of Micronesia FSM. He worked with the Pohnpei State team on the evening of Thursday, March 14, and he conducted a two hour clinic for aspiring coaches at 2:00, Sunday, March 17.
Foster also has been in Pohnpei assisting the FSM Football Association (FSMFA) to prepare for an announced visit of the Asia-Pacific Football Confederation (AFC). The AFC team was scheduled to have come in order to evaluate the process of the application FSMFA submitted for membership in FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association).
The timing would have been perfect for the AFC visit. FSMFA had scheduled a game at 5:00 on Thursday, March 21 between the Pohnpei State team and a combined team of players from Chuuk and Yap. The AFC visit was to have coincided with a meeting of all the Board members of the FSM National Olympic Committee, and of course, Stan Foster is here.
The Thursday night game will still happen but the AFC team will not be here. Last weekend the AFC team announced that they had to postpone their visit.
There will be another opportunity at a later date and there has been some discussion of a visit to Yap by the AFC team possibly during the Yap games. Still, there may not be another time when all of the key players in FSM Soccer will be on island at one time.
Foster said development of soccer is one of the few team sports that doesn't depend on physical height and is the FSM's best chance of entering team sports on an international level. "Basketball and volley ball are great sports," Foster said, "but because of height they'll probably remain at the level of domestic competitions," Foster said.
Foster has only been in Yap for two months of his 18 month commitment which ends in July of 2014 but already he has been very impressed with the natural ability of FSM athletes. He said that he was recently in Ulithi and his clinics went really well there. "They had no inhibitions. They did things with the ball naturally that you usually have to be trained to do," he beamed.
He said that kind of natural ability is great to have but to get to the next level players would have to learn the discipline of the sport, the strategy of the game, and teamwork. He said that in many other countries soccer is part of the everyday lifestyle from early childhood on. It's why he recommended that FSM begin to focus any soccer program on children at the elementary school level.
Foster also conducts clinics and coaches at the High School level. He was pleased to see that the College of Micronesia FSM has added an elective Soccer class and he conducted a well received clinic with the class on March 13.
Elementary school students will likely be the future of soccer in the FSM. "It's possible that after a few years of coaching, FSM could produce soccer players who could be competitive in the international arena," he said.
He says that ideally, for development of soccer in the FSM it should seek financial support in order to hire full time development officers to develop a program at the elementary school age level. There should be training for coaches, and ideally, a couple of soccer fields on each island.
Foster said that for several years he has been aware of the good work of Australian Volunteers International. He started hearing about their work during the five weeks each year since 2000 that he spent in Syria as an archaeologist. Four years ago, as he began to approach retirement age he started looking at opportunities with AVI looking for a job that would be a good fit for him.
When Yap requested an AVI volunteer to come to Yap to help build a soccer program he knew it was the perfect match for him.
Foster said that in many ways his placement in Yap is a pilot program in the FSM. He said that right now he plans to write a "pretty positive report" about the way he has been treated and the way the program has developed. He hoped that AVI might consider the possibility of sending more volunteers in the future to do soccer development work.