Trinidad & Tobago

Despite his young age, Jeron Pantor is no stranger to rugby.

The 24-year-old grew up in what he calls a ‘rugby family’, with his dad and siblings all connected to rugby, so it would seem he was destined to take up the sport.

Having recently graduated from Life University in the USA with a degree in Exercise Science, Jeron currently plays for the Exiles Rugby Youth Club in Trinidad and is now looking to complete his Masters in Sports Health Science in order to give back to the sport that has given so much to him.

“Rugby is something that provides so many opportunities outside of just the sport itself,” he says. “My main objective is to give back by helping young athletes to grow and develop, especially those with dreams of coming to the USA to play rugby and seeking a university education. I currently run my own fitness business, am a certified Life Coach and Personal Trainer, and I would like to use my further studies to continue to help young athletes secure college scholarships and to push forward the development of rugby in the region and beyond.”

A Rugby Family

Born in San Fernando, Jeron was introduced to the sport of rugby at the age of 4 years old and began playing as a teenager.

“Being the youngest in a rugby family, my dad was the first person I ever saw playing rugby and basically taught me and my siblings everything about the sport,” he says. “We are all involved with rugby in one way, shape, or form. My sister is the most capped female player in Trinidad & Tobago and the Women’s National Team Captain, playing a significant role in their success over the years. My brother also captained Trinidad from the U19s straight to the senior Men’s level and was the Manager of the Trinidad & Tobago National team at the recent Youth Commonwealth Games in Tobago. Last but not least, my dad is currently the St. Lucia Rugby Football Union Technical Director. So, as you can see, it really does run in the family!”

Jeron says that although he played a variety of sports growing up and participated in numerous sports development programs, it was rugby that stayed with him.

“I loved sports. I played field hockey, cricket, football, rugby, and track,” he says. “But it is rugby that has given me some of my best memories and significant achievements, even at my young age.”

He says pivotal moments in his career to date include the Touraid Tour to Manchester, England in 2011, the W Connection Tour to Italy where he played against AC Milan, Inter Milan, Udinese, and Verona, being named MVP at the USA Rugby Club Nationals in 2017, competing in the USA Rugby Men’s Club Nationals in New York and finishing third in 2018 at the age of 19, representing the West Indies Team at the Las Vegas Invitational Sevens Tournament at age 17, and being part of the team that won the Sevens Series with the Exiles in 2018.

“I also received the First Citizen Youth Award for three consecutive years – 2015, 2016, and 2017 – and was part of Naparima College’s league, helping to secure the South Zone and national titles in the SSFL,” he says. “I additionally achieved back-to-back Sevens Championships in DA1 USA Collegiate Rugby Sevens in 2022 and 2023.”

Studying At Life

Jeron’s journey to Life University began with networking with coaches and teams, following his participation in the international Rugby Sevens tournament held in Tobago.

“When the tournament moved to Barbados, I kept playing because my goal was always to improve and play at the highest level,” he says. “It was around this time that I got in contact with players and coaches from Northeast Academy, and from there I was invited to play with the Mystic River Rugby Club in the USA during the Summer Sevens while on a break from secondary school. They asked me about my future plans and if I was interested in going to school in the USA. When I said yes, they put me in contact with the former Coach at Life University, Colton Cariaga, and I went through the process of obtaining my student Visa and sent in my videos to apply.”

Jeron’s application was accepted, and he was then offered a rugby scholarship to attend Life University and complete a Bachelor of Exercise Science, graduating last month and enrolling straight into the Masters program for Sports Health Science.

“My student experience has been great,” he says. “Being part of this program instilled in me a sense of professionalism and discipline, and I cherished my experience. I had the best professors who were so understanding and caring, and this support system was priceless especially given I was so far away from home.”

However, despite these perks, Jeron says that being a student-athlete was not without its challenges.

“I learned that not everyone takes this path for a reason; it really is a sacrifice for a better future,” he says. “Some of the challenges I faced included differences in food, family care, injuries, environmental conditions, and just the adjustment to new norms. I cannot stress enough how thankful I am to everyone who stood by my side throughout my journey. I have realized that we only live once, and embracing both the good and bad times has deepened my appreciation for both the opportunities I have been given and the support I have been blessed to receive.”

Moving Forward

Jeron says he hopes to use his experience with rugby in the USA to help develop the sport back home in Trinidad.

“The main differences between rugby in the USA and Trinidad are primarily related to organization, development, exposure to overseas competition, playing time, professionalism, mindset, and resources,” he says. “Being over in the USA really solidified for me that while there is a wealth of talent in Trinidad and Tobago and within the Caribbean, having a development plan that benefits younger generations is of utmost importance in order to build a solid foundation for rugby. The youth are the future.”

He says moving forward his vision is to use his credentials and experience to provide knowledge, specific workout programs, technical improvements in basic skills, and character development for the youth in Trinidad so that they are better equipped to explore international opportunities.

“Sport (and in particular rugby) offers lifechanging opportunities, and can help turn dreams into reality,” he says. “I want young athletes in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean to understand that many opportunities await those who have a plan and work diligently to achieve their goals.”

Jeron says he is extremely grateful for the opportunities thus far that rugby has afforded him and says that he will continue to live by the motto of Life University – ‘Lasting Purpose – To Do, To Give, To Love, To Serve.’

“First and foremost, I give thanks to God for His countless mercies,” he says. “I did not come from a background of abundance, but I am forever thankful for my mother, father, and siblings. I would also like to express my gratitude to all my friends at Mystic River Rugby Club in Massachusetts, whom I also consider family. While I could name them all, the list is extensive, so I thank you all for welcoming me and taking care of me as if I were your own. I am a strong believer in giving people their flowers while they are still here, not after they are gone, so I extend my gratitude to all who have helped me on my journey.”