For Wesley Cribb and his parents, Todd and Laura, joining ESI was the depiction of something good coming out of a challenging situation. Wesley suffered an unfortunate ankle injury prior to being referred to ESI and Stéphane Auvray. The injury forced him into a tedious rehab process and during that recovery period and beyond, the Cribbs watched their son Wesley go from a second team on a local club to trying out and making Sporting Kansas City’s Academy team. All because of the motivation, dedication and hard work of their son and Stéphane’s extraordinary coaching.
“Had he not broken his ankle, we wouldn’t have gotten where we are today,” Laura said. “The coach that can do what Stéphane does is rare.”
Wesley trained under Stéphane for two and half years. At the start, rehabbing with Stéphane was a series of ups and downs. Wesley continued to do what he could but as he moved forward with his recovery, he would have setbacks as well. This process was physically and mentally challenging. As parents, supporting their son through the process was critical.
“Really early on, when Wesley came out of the boot and off crutches, he attended his first small group session at ESI. Stéphane had the players do speed ladders. Wesley couldn’t even do that, so Stéphane told him that it was too early and that he should continue his rehab first. Meanwhile, his coach had him sit on the bench,” Laura said. “Wesley was coming back and doing what he could at ESI.”
Eventually, as Wesley regained his strength, he was able to fully participate and head back to the pitch. He was placed on the second team back at his old club. Knowing their son was in the midst of rehabbing, Laura and Todd thought that was appropriate. But it was Wesley’s trainer, Stéphane, that saw his potential and encouraged more from him.
“Stéphane was working with him in extra training sessions only and he was continually seeing potential written all over him,” Laura said. “I don’t know how he does it or what his criteria are, but he sees talent and develops it.”
Wesley ultimately tried out for ESI and made it. This began his next challenge - Stéphane had Wesley change field positions. Wesley started playing soccer with his dad, Todd, as the coach and he had always been a striker. Wesley had little experience playing defense throughout his development. When he joined ESI, Stéphane switched Wesley to a defensive position. At first, Todd and Laura questioned the move, but Stéphane urged them to trust him, and Wesley said he liked playing defense, which combined to make for a smooth transition.
“Wesley is a very good student,” Todd said. “He listens. He adapts. He does everything he’s asked and more.”
These attributes helped him foster under Stéphane’s direction. The Cribbs praised Stéphane’s ability to identify how to best utilize a player's talent, and how his experience in MLS and international experience makes him an even better coach.
“I loved seeing Wesley grow so quick,” Laura said. “Stéphane was developing my kid in ways I didn’t even see coming. Plus, I think Wesley loved it.” Laura said that development has translated into the classroom with Wesley’s teachers mentioning his growth and maturity off the field.
While the training was rigorous for Wesley, the experiences that came with it were well worth it for the family. They’ve traveled to France and Guadeloupe. “It was definitely terrifying at first. As parents, we had to adapt, but we had a great time,” Laura said.
“I think the travel solidified Wesley’s love for the game,” Todd said. “It helped his journey and his understanding of the game.”
Wesley’s understanding of the game also grew while he played futsal with ESI, a skill that put him in a better position when he joined Sporting Academy’s team.
“SKC was shocked at how good he was. I’ve had older kids’ parents say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize Wes was such a good futsal player,’” Laura said.
For parents considering ESI, the Cribbs offer a lot of great perspective. “Your kid needs to be into soccer and want to excel for it to be successful,” Todd said. “It’s an opportunity like none other in the Kansas City area.” Laura added that commitment to ESI can’t just be from the players, but also from the parents.
“Nothing is handed to you. There are no scripts. Parents have to figure it out; time, finances, and commitment. You get out of it what you put into it.” Laura also explained that for ESI, it’s not all about winning. It’s about growth. “I tell people that if they want their kid to be developed, Stéphane is the coach.”
Wesley hopes to play soccer at the professional level, but right now, he’s focused on growth and development with Sporting Kansas City. The experience is different. Stéphane develops players to be more resilient, tactically proficient and technically sound - so maintaining that strong mentality has put Wesley in a great position to succeed. Todd and Laura noted that along with mindset development, ESI gave Wesley the opportunity to play with older, faster, and stronger players, to get used to the speed and intensity, which helped him when he joined Sporting KC’s Academy team.
Any parents who wonder if ESI is the right next step for their child, take Laura’s advice. “I knew, when we left for Sporting, that ESI was worth it,” she said. “We knew this was an opportunity. This is the best place if you want to be a professional.”
In their Words - Q&A with the Parents
Question: What do you think separates Stéphane as a coach?
Answer: I don’t know how he does it or what his criteria are, but he sees talent and develops it. I think it’s Stéphane that’s special, and he does great things with these kids. So I tell people if they want their kid to BE DEVELOPED, Stéphane is the coach. If they want to be play for fun and get wins, anyplace else will do. - Laura Cribb
Question: What kind of player should consider ESI?
Answer: Your kid needs to be into soccer and wants to excel for it to be successful. Stéphane’s style is so much different than other coaches. The intensity of everyday training is impressive. He creates an opportunity like none other in the KC area. - Todd Cribb
Question: The greatest lesson that ESI has taught your son, is?
Answer: Wesley wants to be a professional soccer player and he is focused on the daily activities to achieve his goal. If you really want to do that, you have to know what it takes. You have to move faster, and your skills have to be faster. From life lessons, ESI taught him a lot of the insider knowledge and insight on how much effort was needed and the steps in the direction toward his path and goals as a player. - Todd Cribb
Question: What differentiates ESI from other clubs?
Answer: The biggest difference is a coach that is phenomenal. He is great at identifying talent. Other coaches bring over talented kids to make the team look good. At ESI, Stéphane finds a way to develop the players, and churns out better, smarter, soccer players. - Laura Cribb