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If you really want to make the most of your sporting ability, LeiLanni Nesbeth insists you need to set your sights on the world beyond Bermuda.

And Ms Nesbeth should know.

One of the Island’s biggest sporting talents, Ms Nesbeth excelled in cricket, football, athletics and basketball from a very young age.

At the age of 13, she won a cricket scholarship at the prestigious Bede’s school in Sussex, England – the place that launched the careers of Bermuda great Delray Rawlins and West Indies batsman Shai Hope.

She was not fazed.

“I was young. I knew I didn’t want to go to high school in Bermuda,” recalled Ms Nesbeth, now 21.

“I don’t know where it came from, but I don’t think I had any nerves. I was just ready to go. I was excited to play a higher level and increase my exposure and experience.”

Ms Nesbeth’s chance came when her grandmother Ann Williams visited a schools fair at the Southampton Princess and set up interviews with Bede’s.

Backed by the Bermuda Cricket Board, young LeiLanni won the four-year scholarship, and before long she was playing cricket for Sussex and football for Brighton and Hove Albion.

“Balancing both was one of the most challenging aspects, especially as I was also at boarding school at 13. It was tough for a couple of years,” she said.

Schoolwork and her roles as prefect and deputy head girl made the schedule even more demanding.

“I’m not going to beat about the bush. It was tough. Sometimes I carpooled with teammates and didn’t get home until 10.30pm, then I would scoff some food and go to bed!

“It’s one of those things that has to be done, so you make a way. Yes, it’s tough, but in order to be in this position and play at the level you want to, you have to make sacrifices.”

Ms Nesbeth later won another sports scholarship at Florida State University, where she is studying for a masters in sports management and minor in general business.

Football is now her number one sport, and she plays as a midfielder or forward for the university’s Seminoles team; she has also represented Bermuda in Concacaf qualifiers.

The masters degree will be vital when her playing career ends.

“I would like to get involved in teaching and coaching,” she said. “I would love to be able to transfer to something in the US and bring that back to Bermuda, and continue to develop the women’s game back home.”

Ms Nesbeth urged young sports stars to take advantage of any opportunities that come their way.

“That’s one thing my grandmother preached to me. No matter what the opportunity was, she would tell me to make a way.

“For young people, get out of the country. Bermuda is small. Expand your horizon. There’s so much out there. If you want to make a name for yourself, you need to leave the Island, make sacrifices and put time into learning your craft.”

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