ESI player who joined Sporting Kansas City's Academy Program.

ESI Alumni Wesley Cribb Evolved into a MLS Academy Success

Wesley Cribb plays center back for Sporting KC’s U17 Academy team. Before joining the Academy he spent more than 2 years at ESI developing talents and leadership skills that have been foundational to his success on and off the field. Wesley recognizes that ESI’s program and specifically Coach Stéphane Auvray, taught him the importance of communication, improved his technical skills, and increased his overall game intelligence. 

What led Wesley to ESI? An ankle injury. This misfortune caused him to be dismissed from the local club he was playing for. His parents had assessed ESI based on feedback from other parents and discussions with Stéphane. After a successful tryout with ESI, the family was excited about the potential opportunities for player growth that was available through the Institute.  Wesley was especially looking forward to the quality of training and coaching - but still couldn’t help having some nerves at the first training session. 

“Initially I remember thinking - ‘I will give it a try and see what I think,’ Wesley said. “I remember being nervous going into my first practice. A new coach and a new team. On the outside the place looked like a house - but inside there was a whole indoor field! It was really cool and I ended up really liking it. The training and coaching was good, and it just went up from there.”

Changing clubs wasn’t the only major transition Wesley had to face at ESI. He was moved into an entirely different field position. Wesley went from striker to center midfielder and then ultimately center back under Stéphane’s direction. It was a decision that both Wesley and his family didn’t immediately understand, and a clear adjustment for him.

“It was different,” Wesley said. “It was the first time I played center back. I was afraid I might not be good at it. I have to help the team in different ways at this position.” 

This new perspective taught Wesley that there are more ways to impact the game than scoring. His family has always loved seeing him score, but in developing good passing techniques and defense, Wesley was able to become a more well-rounded player.

“I learned a lot technically. Before I didn’t think about my first touch or passes. I was just playing to play, shoot and score,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about how to set myself up to make the right action or to prepare for my next pass.”

Wesley Cribb
Wesley Cribb

This growth mindset and adaptability to a new position on the field - all of which he gained while at ESI and under the tutelage of Stéphane - was exactly what he needed before joining Sporting KC’s Academy.

“I learned how to play the sport right. I knew nothing about the tactical part of the game before ESI and it was definitely good for my growth as a player,” Wesley said. “Knowing where players would have to move, moving off the ball for each other, anticipating where the defender is going to force you to, and then making the right action was everything I learned while at ESI.”

Along with game intelligence, Wesley thinks his overall attitude was elevated. Through a strengthened understanding of the game, Wesley was able to increase his communication at ESI and be more connected to his teammates. Developing this skill has also supported him well in his time at Sporting Kansas City Academy.

“I started developing my communication skills at ESI and that really has helped me at the Academy,” Wesley said. “I try to be a leader at Sporting now and always talk to players in the game. Before ESI I didn’t talk. I realized with Stéphane that giving information to your teammates is important and keeps the team connected.”

Stéphane’s mindset and attitude left the biggest impression on Wesley. Wesley learned to always be professional, humble, and to say out of trouble. As Wesley started emulating a new mindset, he was learning more and more about the game, and he enjoyed the experience as a player even more.

“Stéphane is definitely an amazing coach and has helped me with the understanding of the game,” Wesley said. “He’s helped me with my technical abilities and to play faster. ESI is different from other clubs in that regard. You can’t get any coaching like that in other clubs.” Wesley added, “Since Stéphane was a pro, you listened to him as you knew he was talking from experience.”

Wesley also recognized that while ESI was the perfect fit for him and his situation - the program is not for every player. “It’s a professional environment,” he said. “If you’re not willing to give it your all, you shouldn’t be there.”

Wesley also recognized that while ESI was the perfect fit for him and his situation - the program is not for every player. “It’s a professional environment,” he said. “If you’re not willing to give it your all, you shouldn’t be there.”

Stéphane’s emphasis on intelligence and technique were critical to Wesley’s achievements. They’re important for each ESI player, but it wasn’t until Wesley joined Academy that he discovered just how important they are.

“Now that everyone is older, faster and stronger we have to know how to play a lot faster and how to always make the right action always,” Wesley said. “If you don’t - if you take too long - you are going to lose the ball and defend. I definitely get why Stéphane told me how you had to play faster.”

In addition to the speed and fundamentals, Wesley was mentally ready for Academy. “I already had a sense of coaching because the styles are very similar,” he said. “ESI also prepared me for the professional side of it too. Sporting KC stresses how you need to act like a pro on and off the field.”

Wesley Cribb

His hard work at ESI and continued development at the Academy have paid off. Wesley’s all-time favorite accomplishment on the field is winning cups with SKC in Los Angeles and he takes pride in honing his leadership skills.

“It’s been pretty cool,” he said. “Most importantly, the development of my leadership has been important to me. I’m proud of that. It has come a long way with communication and driving the energy each practice.”

While he’s enjoying his time with Academy, Wesley hopes this opportunity will springboard him to bigger things. He hopes to train with older age groups and possibly play for Sporting Kansas City II. As Wesley works to reach his goals, there will always be a special place for ESI.

“I miss Stéphane,” he said. “I miss the trips we want on, like Guadeloupe and France. It was a good experience to compete against those top teams.” He offers a grateful sentiment for the foundational and vital growth experiences that the Institute and the coach provided.

“Thank you, ESI, for shaping and molding me into the player I am today,” he added.

Hear more from Wesley, and get to know his parents in our newsletter.


In their Words - Q&A with Wesley Cribb

Question: What did you learn at ESI that helps you the most on a daily basis?
Answer: I think the importance of having a great attitude has stuck with me. The attitude that Stéphane had rubbed off on me. His professionalism and modeling how to keep it professional is something I try to do in everyday life. He also taught me to stay humble always.

Question: How did you find the motivation to train day after day, without certainty there would be an opportunity or understanding that the training would ultimately amount to a step toward your goals?
Answer: I had a feeling that opportunities would come about if I stayed consistent and worked my hardest everyday. I was waiting for the opportunities to arise and gaining the mental patience to get there.

Question: Stéphane constantly insists on game intelligence and technique. Now that you are at SKC playing at the highest national level, do you understand why?
Answer: Yeah of course! Now that everyone is getting older, faster and stronger we have to know how to play a lot faster and how to always make the right action. If you don’t - if you take too long - you are going to lose the ball and defend. I definitely get why he told me how you had to pay faster.

Question: What advice, guidance or coaching element still rings in your mind the most - that you almost can still hear Stéphane saying to you on the field, off the field or throughout your life?
Answer: I can hear Stéphane saying, “You need to play faster.” I think that is the advice that will always stick with me.

Also I started developing better communication because of working with Stéphane. That really helped with making the Sporting team. I now try to be a leader at Sporting and always talk to players in the game. Before ESI I did not talk. Giving information to your teammates is important and keeps the team connected.

Question: What are your ultimate goals (short & long-term) when it comes to soccer?
Answer: I want to go play in college at UCLA, Gonzago, or Virginia, and go pro someday, ultimately making the US Mens’ National team. Question: Who are some of your favorite soccer players or mentors? How have they inspired you? Answer: Christian Pulisic with Chelsea F.C. is my favorite player because he’s opened the door for Americans who want to play for well-known teams in Europe. He’s inspired me to dream bigger.