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Dear Editor: Modern football isn’t just about talent but coaching; the TTFA’s youth policy problem

“The current TTFA administration and technical staff seem not to understand. Their dependence on a cadre of volunteers who come at a dime a dozen shows flagrant disregard for an effective pathway to success.”

The following Letter to the Editor on Trinidad and Tobago’s struggles in youth football—and, in particular, at the recent CONCACAF Under-15 Championship—was submitted to Wired868 by a United States-based coach, who shared on condition of anonymity:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-15 midfielder Ezekiel Kesar (centre) tries to escape from Republic Bank XI opponents Randy Antoine (left) and Aaron Moruf during action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 April 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

What you’re about to read is a compilation of physical involvement and observations of Trinidad and Tobago football trends spanning 40 years. One can pick any decade from the 1960s to the present; and if one were to close one’s eyes and reflect, you will hear the echoes of the 60s reverberating in 2017.

With every failed youth international outing—including the moderate success of the Alvin Corneal-led 1974 squad—the most common utterances from each technical staff was this: “It was a good learning experience for our boys/girls,” “We need to adopt the professional habits exhibited by our counterparts” and “Our preparation was inadequate but we were just as talented as any other participant…”

And the latest, before Jamaica drubbed us 8-1, “We’re not far off…”

Someone smack me and tell me this is a prank. Really?!

As a kid, do you remember “The Wooden Spoon” award? It never went to the winner. I think—I stand to be corrected—it recognised good behaviour.

Trinidad and Tobago won enough ‘wooden spoons’ to begin their own line of country kitchenware!

Anyway, on a much more serious note, this last debacle in Florida—conceding 21 goals and scoring one—is the catalyst for this letter. You see the modern game is not just about talent, even though talent is a requirement; it’s more about coaching.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right-back Jerrin Jackie (left) tries to keep up with Jamaica attacker Nicque Daley during Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Under-17 action on 20 September 2016 at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

How information becomes an appendage of a sound philosophy and how it’s dispensed to players should be the point of focus.

I want to say again that the point of focus should be the manner of delivery and the information dispensed. Players will show up in droves whenever a tryout is announced but we must have the coaches to deliver the message. It’s a waste of time and money to attend school—in this case, a tryout—when the teachers cannot elucidate the curriculum. The result is crushing and embarrassing.

The current TTFA Administration and technical staff seem not to understand. Their dependence on a cadre of volunteers who come at a dime a dozen shows flagrant disregard for an effective pathway to success.

With the utmost respect to coach ‘Latas’, his qualifications are not appropriate to youth soccer; a UEFA Pro license is about elite players at the highest levels.

The TTFA in its infinite wisdom continues to ignore local coaches, the likes of Nigel Grovesnor in the North and Michael Grayson in the East and their counterparts like Angus Eve in the South.

Photo: Naparima College coach Angus Eve (right) makes a point while Presentation College (San Fernando) coach Shawn Cooper looks on during the Big Four final at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva on 12 December 2016.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

Together with others, they’ve—for years—experienced all the peaks and valleys that come with the ever-changing modes of kids who are 15-22 years of age. Instead, the TTFA chooses to look well beyond their noses, resulting in continuous mismatches.

That happens because we lack a unifying philosophy for our football. The just-appointed Technical Director believes in the Dutch model and, taking no time to tweak it, rather, in my opinion, simply rubber-stamps their programme by switching the KNFVB logo for that of the TTFA’s.

Philosophies are largely congruent with culture; they are fluid and can be tweaked and adjusted to make them your own. We all remember 1989, just how dizzy our entire nation was about the Men’s National Team.

Gally Cummings’ style and rhythm of play was identifiable to our culture; it was a happy marriage and everyone gravitated to it. Gally’s team mirrored our culture.

Conversely, during the final two games of the 2006 campaign, in my opinion, everyone was married to Leo Beenhakker’s success. We’ll be forever grateful to that squad. However, Gally’s style can be duplicated for our youth. Only someone born of the Dutch culture can reproduce the 2006 philosophy.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s famous “Strike Squad”that fell at the last hurdle during the 1989/1990 campaign.
(Courtesy TTfootballhistory.com)

Trinbagonians don’t have much in common with the Dutch. Trinbagonians worship the rhythms and styles of our great South American neighbours. Trinbagonians also like almost everything from the USA.

As a result, would it not make more sense to fuse one or both of the aforementioned cultures for our youth?

Simply put, just research the number of Trinbagonian footballers who interface with versus the Dutch versus those who interface with the Americans during vacations, at universities and markets or while joining family members, versus the Dutch. My point is clear.

So let’s re-visit and massage the idea of how to equip the next cadre of coaches.

I asked a dear friend and former player of mine to provide me with an account of Trinidad and Tobago’s performances at the CONCACAF Under-15 Championships in Bradenton.

This friend is a staff coach at the host academy in Bradenton and a former protege of mine who holds an ‘A’ license. What follows is his response:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team coach Russell Latapy (background) looks on at a national training session.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

“I never saw them play in a match. I observed a training session that was very unimpressive. Kids didn’t seem interested. I overheard two of the staff mention some things about something that may have been going on away from the field—maybe parents getting in the way or something like that…

“I didn’t see anything I learned from you.”

My response to him was that generally Trinis don’t see the US as a soccer (football) nation; even though, if Trinidad and Tobago were to beat the US, it would be considered an upset.

What a world of difference from my younger days when a USA victory over Trinidad would have been an upset… Sad!

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117 comments

  1. You coachinh is very sencetive base on the age group it is age appropriate you do not coach sn develp a youth player the way you coach a senior team at present we are behind in technical and tatical between the ages of 15 to 17 when we are looking to develop these ages in the advance foitballing nation theses ages are aleeady professionals there for our development needs to start way before .however it must be done under proper coaching and development with proper development in the 4 major components of fotball technical , tatical physical and physogical and development towards there cognitive areas as well all the modern concept are to be implemented in there development not when they are selected for competation then you want to coach about tatical and awareness train to train and train to compete at 15 and 17 they should be a complete player .

  2. ..Let’s talk about MODERN football strategy and tactics. Not the anachronism of peculiar national STYLE. That no longer exists..

  3. ..”Carille worked under current national team coach Tite, who had two highly successful recent spells with the club, and it shows. His team have the same compact manner of playing that has become the hallmark of Tite’s sides. They are solid in defence, look to win the ball high up the field and generate the numerical superiority that leaves the man on the ball with plenty of options for a quick pass. Centre forward Jo is in fine form, working well as a pivot with lots of runners getting close to him in support. It is a brand of modern, collective football which gives Corinthians a clear advantage over the chasing pack, with the possible exception of the eye-pleasing passing game of Gremio.”..

  4. Da not looking for d real footballers in t&t they just sticking with d old ones it have plenty talent in tt but is who u no

  5. We have natural flair and talent but we sorely lack fitness and structure, which is a culture that is transferred to the senior teams.

  6. I will not speak directly to the articles content, but I have been saying that we hang our hats too high with this south American style nonsense. I tell you what, I will bet good money that an American coach and some stiff strength and conditioning training, that they espouse, this team would have done far better than any local coach bar maybe angus eve………a most recent example was Randy Waldrun and how he had our women playing, fast, high pressure football, that is because he took the time to convert our women into proper athletes, and something our coaches never ever do…..never ever……

    football is a fast paced thinking man’s game and it has been so for upwards of 30yrs now, we coaches is d only ones who eh get d memo

  7. A quality youth development program should be considered with the implementation of a coaching curriculum that’s geared towards understanding of the principles of the game. In TnT we have the natural talent from the players and they need to be guided and learn to grown and compete with the developing game. A technical director who understands curriculum development and the stages of youth development will serve the country’s talent wisely. The current TTFA I will stay away from discussing. The hope however is that there’s a common understanding of what’s needed for our young talent to grow. The current players have missed several steps in their development. Including the current national teams.
    Lastly, current TT coaches are blessed with the natural talent to guide our youth because of their passion and knowledge of the game as players. They were raised in good homes and bring an understanding of the discipline that’s needed. However as the game develops, players globally are getting faster, smarter and are being exposed to the developing game because of the level of education the foreign Coaches are receiving, not just in coaching but in understand how to coach the “developing mind.” The courses that are being taught in Trinidad leave the local coaches wanting and thirsting for more. There’s also no structure in place for continued evaluation to ensure that they are using the knowledge.

    The development of TNT football will need to focus on the development of the “whole” player…physically, technically, tactically, mentally, Psychologically, passionately, their lifestyle. There’s a need to also ensure that the right coaches have the ability to teach, implement and bring out and deliver these components and much more.

    Neil Berment

  8. Is not a war it is the selection policies of w connection coaches and players .

  9. De author eh relly say nutten of note. In my opinion, the misfortunes of our youth footballers goes far beyond the players and coaches. Obviously they have a part to play, but our biggest issue is that we DO NOT have a sound programme of youth development. If we had that, then by extension we would have the right coaches, the right scouts, competent players etc. It is 2017 and our modus operandi is still to prepare for tournaments in last minute fashion. Our youth development needs to start from at least 9 or 10 years old, NOT U-15. Plus we need to have transparency and not be secretive about screenings, coach appointments etc. As a small country with limited resources, we need to make use of the personnel that’s available to us, local and foreign-based. Leave the egos at the door. I know we have had a myriad of plans over the years, but none have been executed in any meaningful way. Too much talk and not enough action.

    • In terms of team preparation–at least as far as time spent together–this side had more than many previous teams and were together for even longer than some of their CONCACAF opponents like Canada.
      In terms of development, well, true, that is a different story. Because then we have to consider what education each of those boys had BEFORE they started screening for the national team.

    • Some disagree with me but first we need a football style and philosophy grounded in our culture which for me is the difficult part. A program for development in our small 1.5 million, 36 voting district country is simple. Schools, clubs, social organizations and churches need qualified coaches following our philosophy. The technology is now available to have video of every SSFL, Pro League, etc for the benefit of scouting. Sadly, its so simple I believe that its the absence of men and women with courage, vision and commitment that we lack. I read comments of men and women on Wired that are capable so I know we have the talent but lack the performance.

    • To be honest, the word “culture” is very controversial. I’ve seen people talk about football being homogenous and solely about the technical and tactical strengths of players.
      I’d say Beenhakker and Hart obtained some success without giving a toss about culture.
      But I do believe that people have a natural rhythm. So I’m leaning your way Sean. It’s just that we have to cover the bases first and create players with a solid foundation before we start concerning ourselves with culture.
      Or do I have it back to front?

    • There are no tapes of u14 ssfl games, not even the zonal or national finals Sean Powder!

    • John TrinipelvicPatterson the technology exists to dot this cheaply and simply

    • Nigel Myers. Function before form but what will you build the function on without style/philosophy.?

    • LasanaLiburd Beenhakker succeed without culture but I believe Hart implicitly had the culture and pragmatism spot on though he could have used more culture in my opinion. I maybe bias as a 75 % Hart supported. I like you hear of football being now simplified to a homogenous level which I laugh at because football like all industries requires competitive advantage where being homogenous causes you to be obsolete. That natural rhythm is CRITICAL if you have the courage and confidence to believe.

  10. I agree with the basic tenets. I will still say football is NOT unique in its requirements. And it’s not about coaching but a lot about leadership and management do which the coach is one piece. If we use an organizational construct, the TTFA is the board that sets direction and provides overall governance- policies, operating principles etc., then there a CEO/President who can be the Technical Director who puts into place a strategy and structure to accomplish the vision and operational effectiveness determined and adopted by the board. The coach is the next extension and in that regard is the COO. The role of the COO is critical because he/she is at the frontline of operations (the team) and there is a constant feedback mechanism and transparency in decision making (includes delegation of authority etc), performance management, measurement and metrics, and personnel decisions.

    This is the type of structure that’s being out in place in the developing and high performing nations around the globe. The results on the field reflect not only talent but the effectiveness of the organization behind the team

  11. Nadeera, looks like they worked it through yes… 😉

  12. The war between the TTFA and SSFL must stop. I believe the u14 goal keeper at Chaguanas North was the best in the country last season, Who saw him he doesn’t belong to an academy or a pro league club? Another lost opportunity but who cares? For the 2016 SSFL I as as manager saw more u14 games than any other official. We at Chag North had the smoothest operating unit in the country even though we lost 0-1 to Shiva College in the national final ( that game’s official competence was another story). We came out of the so called weakest zone in the country but it proves talent has to be sought nationwide

  13. Lasana If this chat is what that chat degenerates to, is it really worth it? Just asking.

  14. There is a story behind the discussion which is please tell young children to take their school work seriously , be it academics and or a trade to which one may be inclined.Take uour football seriously as it offers another avenue.But do not let your eggs stay only in the football basket as there are HUGE disappointments along the way to STARDOM. Or perceived stardom.Many tricksters , questionable coaches and persons with agendas of their own.Your destiny is always in your hands and please remain committed and focussed.

  15. So the definition of professional is being paid?

  16. So true and stop the depedancie on collages and youth pro league players from just certain clubs .

  17. With a response like that i see why we in more of a mess than i think!!!!

  18. What does culture have to do with football? What is a style of football? Let’s examine culture doesn’t Brazil and Trinidad have kinda similar cultures? I would think so, an established carnival, a love (well I not sure but I’ll say it anyway) for football , etc . Compare our records at football. The writer said we gravitate towards the South American style yet we have failed miserably when coached by south Americans Go check the records . Last time up we hired the tiki taka architect of SA who had Colombia juking theball around with valderamma and co. What was the results ? So clearly “culture” does not ensure success. Style , what is our preferred style? In attack Is it possession based or direct football or a mixture of both? In defense do we press or drop off or a mixture of both? In transition do we drop off when we lose possession or try to win it back asap a la Barca under pep ? Of course style / strategy is determined by the players’ quality , a coaches preference/interpretation of how the game should be played among other things . With regards to the Dutch we have A LOT in common with the Dutch . Small nation compared to our major competitors, limited financial resources in comparison to the same , a need to enhance our human resources in order to compete being coaches, players , administrators , medical personnel etc . And by the way the Dutch way took us to the world cup after 6 months worth of training time. It is not a coincidence that Dutch coaches can be found in abundance the world over . How many Brazilian coaches are in Europe’s top leagues ??? End of part 1

  19. To all concerned Travis and i just had a foorball discussion for nearly an hour.That is what commentary is about and sharing views.

  20. Of everything the quote from the colleague is most instructive. If there is bacchanal off the field, with parents involved etc, it is only expected that they aren’t operating like a team.

    So while everything else in the article rings true, what stands out for me is the suggestion if disciplinary issues – possibly emanating from the players, parents and even the administrators…

  21. That quote about the athletes requires some context. Was the training session observed prior to the start of the competition or after the kids had already started losing matches?

  22. To What club are you attached ?

  23. Thanks for an enjoyable evening

  24. Blessings to you and yours bro and of course I would hold no animosity.

  25. By the way that legal matter was done through my office with Shaka

  26. Brother i enjoyed the banter and let us leave it as friendly banter so when i see you i will introduce myself as i bear no animosity. Hope you see it the same…CHEERS.Enjoy uour evening and God bless

  27. Come on intellect sheep dgs are honorable they guard the sheep from the wolves like jack . So you are on the highest plain

  28. I don’t ever take the role of victim bro, I was one of the players who fought for better conditions for players in T&T sacrificing my own progress in the process but the way of the revolutionary is such.

  29. Brother make up your mind nah…you confusing me and all….i am now a sheep dog….what am i really and furthermore am i now ranked higher or lower as a sheepdog?

  30. Never bro. Jack has to reap what he sowed

  31. Feel you suffering from abuse syndrome..but remember i am only a lawyer dabbling in law

  32. Well now that I know you a lil better you are a sheep dog ,you protect the sheep from the wolves. That good enough ??? LoL

  33. Hahaha…may have to send you for counseling…Jack again…let it end nah!!!!

  34. I look at the bigger picture , jack hurt T&T football bad I was just collateral damage . All of our problems can be traced back to Jack’s reign

  35. You took umbrage to my comment and lionised yourself and i am still a humble sheep.

  36. Good Al least we can agree on something

  37. Jack is not my nemesis bro, I was simply stating some facts , ALLAH has taken care of Jack and will continue to for ALL his misdeeds so I don’t worry, but his contribution to the Ness that is T&T football must be mentioned lest we forget

  38. And you are free for us to discuss law..no scene

  39. I an not Great,i am a humble free sheep.I did not attack your comment….i also commented….can i not dhate your view without attack?

  40. You were the one who attacked my comment bro, I just reciprocating , since you guys feel you could ridicule people opinion who were in trenches and didn’t walk away at 16 but dedicated their lives to the game. Would you tolerate me trying to discuss the intricacies of law with the Great Brooks ? No you wouldn’t so that’s my angle

  41. When you in CIC top three Man U is a flirt…Dont get confused,Lion.

  42. I beginning to like you ,Travis.

  43. Great heights in this family are academics….Remember Jack is your nemesis…not mine.Blame it on Jack…We blame it on the books…Brooks

  44. LoL, now u confusing me you went to heights such as man u ,now u come to loes like the pro league accolades keep it consistent pardner . It’s either you maintaining great heights or you not.