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Corneal aims to widen player pool through TTFA Primary School programme

Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) technical director Anton Corneal will attempt to widen the pool of local players and introduce children to the game at an early age via the Nationwide Primary Schools Project, which was launched on Wednesday morning at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar.

Corneal was assisted by director of football Muhammad Isa and national coaches Dennis Lawrence, Stuart Charles-Fevrier, Russell Latapy and Ross Russell.

Photo: TTFA technical director Anton Corneal.

The project targets 2,000 children between the ages of 9 to 10 in all eight school districts. All will be outfitted with uniforms from the project’s title sponsor, Nu-Iron.

“This programme is directed to 2,000 kids every Wednesday where we have 1000 boys and 1000 girls participating in drills and games,” Corneal told the TTFA Media. “This is really the only way. If we would like to compete then this is the way. It needs to start here.

“There needs to be good coaching, well organised sessions, it needs to be a disciplined setting and the kids need to have fun and if we can do this then we will be on the right path.”

Corneal explained that he intentionally targeted the age group just below the respective school’s first team since he felt they already benefit through the Atlantic LNG programme which was has held courses for as many as 300 primary school coaches over the last three years.

“It’s an initiative where we are trying to introduce the game to players just a little bit younger that Primary Schools age,” he said. “[…] It’s one where we hope to grow the player pool especially on the side of girls where we just don’t have enough girls playing.

Photo: Adrenaline FA attacker Lu Ann Craig (left) takes on the Febeau Government Primary defence during RBNYL Under-11 action at Constantine Park in Macoya on 6 May 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

“So we are hoping that we can introduce the game to them, get them interested, get them to love the game and then we can get them to buy into joining clubs, academies and of course get them to play for their schools.”

Each invited school will be asked to send 12 players to the Wednesday sessions, which run—all year round—from 10am to noon. Mixed schools are required to send six boys and six girls.

“This is going to introduce just the basics of the game with simple technique and probably very little tactical,” said Corneal. “This is just to get them enjoying being out here and playing—something that is really missing in our sport. Years ago it was done informally which was not a bad way where kids played. But today our kids don’t play; they are on cellphones and other games.

“[…] This initiative here is going to kickstart what is going to happen in five to ten years. This is the bottom of our development plan where we need a mass of players being involved in the game.”

Photo: San Fernando SA attacker Jerome Barker (right) flicks the ball in mid-flight during RBNYL Under-11 action against Giving Back in La Brea on 21 May 2017.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The TTFA Primary Schools programme is similar to the “Nationwide Children Community Clinics”, which was launched in 2015 by then technical director Kendall Walkes and football president Raymond Tim Kee.

The Community Clinics offered a one-hour per week session to children meant to offer “an introduction to the game, the philosophy of grassroots, basic techniques, example exercises and small sided games.”

Unlike the current programme, Weekes targeted the under-8, under-11 and under-13 age groups with one hour dedicated to each.

However, the programme struggled for resources and was discontinued under Tim Kee’s successor, David John-Williams.

Presumably, the football body assumes that corporate sponsorship would help ensure the project’s long term-viability this time.

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93 comments

  1. Agreed Anthony Sherwood. 12 players from each school means a potential star might fall through the cracks.

  2. Well you know my take. Which is to develop our players thru the schools and hand them over to the clubs at 18. This will also mean that the cut off age for SSFL would be 18

  3. WATCH: Here is another excellent video highlighting the previous TTFA Grassroots Programme
    https://www.facebook.com/ScotiabankTTFoundation/videos/1245676662151055/

  4. Why not on the weekend instead??Children will miss school time!!

    • Learning to play a sport should be part of school. We want to be able to develop children in all areas not just academics.

    • But Ms Torres this could be done ouside of school;there’s no need for this during School time at this time.Learning to play sport can be done outside of school hours!!

    • If you are training young people at this level and want to reach such a large number of children, it’s easier to do it during school than have to deal with the parents’ inability to pick up children after training. I have dropped home girls in areas where they should not be travelling alone after school games and training. And that’s only one, though very important issue related to doing it after school or on weekends. If we want to build well trained and qualified sportsmen and women we will need to make some sacrifices. It can be done. Do you know that in some countries the training happens in the morning before school and during the school day

    • Marina, “we” have to make sacrifices? By that you mean the children who are giving up how many hours of school?
      Why don’t “we” make the sacrifice of hiring transport to drop them home then?
      This compromise seems largely one way. Sure there are issues no matter what but people shouldn’t act like giving up school time is nothing.

    • Lasana I will certainly second the transport. But I work in child development and education and I know that children benefit tremendously from play. In addition, my son played both cricket and football in primary school and cricket in secondary school. He practiced and played games during the school day and it didn’t affect his and his friends’ education. Most of his team mates are doing well at University.

    • Marina they will only get to university if they mix education and sport. Not let one overpower the other. I have several family members who did both too. My sister was an all conference student athlete for field hockey. I doubt very much my mother would have let her miss half day a school once a week to play hockey at 9.
      So I don’t consider that an acceptable compromise. The idea itself is fine but I feel it can still do some work to get the right fit.
      Students playing sport too is hardly novel. We have done it for decades. But schoolwork must be respected too.
      Getting a child to give up lessons is hard enough these days. But to give up actual school time too?

    • Lasana I agree with you that many successful children who play sport do achieve the balance with the support of teachers and parents. My daughter and son played competitively and have missed half days and lessons and their schools have ensured that they didn’t miss their school work. I’ve done programmes in schools where they’ve had to give up teaching time. It takes creative organization and cooperation of staff.

    • Marina I remember three or four years ago when All Sports was involved, we had a national youth team traveling around exam time.
      And the TTFA got tutors to travel with the team and a CXC examiner to give them their paper.
      Now as a parent, I’d feel a lot more comfortable when I see stuff like that. It shows me that the TTFA cares about the welfare of my child.
      And that is what we need to see. I think they should go a bit further to show that. Not just leave it up the parents and the whims of the teachers.
      Teachers don’t give of their after school time anymore in most cases.

    • The under 17 girls team did have a tutor during their camp and trip last year my daughter and several others were preparing for CXC. I agree that regular and consistent systems do need to be in place in the education system. But there are many teachers who do support by posting work online, Skyping with students and seeing them outside of class time.

    • Marina that’s good to know about under-17s. I remember in last U-20 boys, we had some players from Deep South from poor families who couldn’t get to sessions.
      It is better that TTFA has smaller programmes if it allows them to take care of players better with transport and meals.
      I’m happy to hear when players are comfortable.

      • Earl Best

        In my view, what this whole exchange, albeit important, misses is a clear sense of the difference between schooling and education. Contrary to what many Trinis think, they are NOT synonymous.
        I have three adult children who are successfully professionals although they rarely ever went to school whenthey did not want to. In both primary and secondary.
        I have never heard one complain about the day(s) (s)he missed school.

        • Earl Best

          I am also in frequent touch with scores of ex-sportsmen who have also managed to make successful careers for themselves. The time they spent on the field of play, they all seem to think, enriched rather than impoverished their lives.
          My own experience as student/committed sportsman is similar. And as an educator, I can say without fear of successful contradiction that my best work was done on the field of play rather than in the classroom.
          There’s a lesson, I am certain, somewhere in there.

  5. We need programmes like these to occur with consistency, not to be affected by dry seasons of funding, or change of officials. Having raised a young lady who was determined to play football from infancy, we are very proud of her commitment, motivation and determination. She trains year round, fitness and good diet is a daily thing, not seasonal, and academics is just as important. However we have had to deal with issues of being the only female on her team up to age 11, keeping her motivated when she didn’t get picked despite being a top player. We also need to be serious about dealing with growth spurt and injuries in girls, especially, so that they can continue to have years of playing beyond high school. I would really like to see this programme grow and blossom as my daughter is doing

  6. If I do recall, didn’t they get $10 million from NLCB under its ex-chairman in late 2016 for a grassroots program, which failed to materialize – well up until this recycled/resurrected relabelled effort.
    Quite frankly, it’s left to be seen how this 10-11am time off from school will pan out.
    What if the Cricket Board, Volleyball Federation, Track & Field Association, Gymnastic Federation, Netball Association, Hockey Association, Cycling Federation and other national sporting bodies make requests to the Education Ministry to grant similar time for grassroots training, will the Ministry also give approval?
    And if it does not, now won’t that amount to a classic case of discrimination against other sports?!
    Also, are proper nutrition, refreshments and transportation to and from school to be provided for the 1000 boys and 1000 girls in this program?
    Bearing in mind it will take a certain amount of time for travelling to the respective venues for training, and then back to school, will these young pupils be able to adequately function in class during the afternoon period?
    I wonder if all these issues have been factored and figured out in the primary school grassroots football scheme (no pun intended)!

  7. ..THAT IS WHAT ALL THE DEVELOPMENT MONEY IS SUPPOSED TO BE FOR..

  8. If so, then the TTFA could work more to improve community coaches and to fund more youth leagues. Maybe that is more practical considering the concerns.
    But let’s see how this one does.

  9. ..Meantime, in response to a comment above about the kids missing classes, let me say this is a legitimate concern. And this is not comparable to them having PE class during the normal school day and on the school compound. This programme requires an excursion to a centralized venue, which means lost class hours to get there. This is why I say the ONLY way this programme could generate meaningful long term effect is if the schools are prepared to assume responsibility for it. Further, let me also say that there seems to be a total lack of understanding in TTFA for the fact and reality that children involved in TTFA programmes are IN SCHOOL. My (very reliable) information is that, currently, the members of the national U20 training squad, training in Larry Gomes Stadium, Arima, are asked to travel AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE, from all over the country to report for duty at 3.00PM. so this is a double whammy – come on your own dime and miss school into the bargain. Is TTFA serious? Where is the money from NLCB and FIFA being spent?..

  10. ..Yes. That was a very good programme. It died for lack of administrative will power and committed resources. We have danced to this tune before. Let’s see..

  11. Keith I remember the Centers for Excellence program , you set up the curriculum and we were working until the funds dried up
    I believe that was the first attempt at any type of development structure in our football
    I think this present one will do well for the organisers .

  12. ..this is why I have asked the TTFA if the technical committee is functional; if there is an overall technical development plan; who are TTFA’s technicians and how they are hired; and who they report to..

  13. True talk Terry Fenwick why not a combination of both

  14. Experience- 18 years in Trinidad, the more people involved the more likelyhood of failure. Facts to bare in mind, since the departure of Tim Kee and Hart all national age groups have capitulated to bottom of Concacaf standings.
    Why should we think this will be successful? My opinion, 6 monthly progress reports that are published and failure areas personnel fired and replaced by competence?

  15. The children will miss school!!

  16. To set up village academies with local coaches and have scouts go around watching and selecting th3 more talented youth to train in one central location on Saturdays be it morning, midday or evenings with the provision of transportation and maybe some extra lessons for the less academically inclined…

  17. Ive seen some of these sessions in South in Skinner park taking place when the program was in full swing . Not much to talk about though … There was a larger pool of more talented youngsters not involved than those who were… Having spoken to some of the parents during my local travels for minor leagues , many expressed the same concerns.. Basically for many living in cedros, icacos, Erin, moruga et Al , it was hard for them to travel or hire a taxi to and from San Fernando daily/ nightly and early on Sunday mornings. Especially with young children who have home work to do and still be ready for school the next morning…the more efficient method would have been to have vi

  18. This program is supported by the Ministry of Education? I hope not. These young kids should not be required to miss school to participate in such an initiative. More appropriate for an after school program or better yet a weekend program. Personally, I would have loved to see a program like this taken to the various communities, and spearheaded by local coaches/clubs. The coaches /clubs should be carried through approaching training by the TTFA to familiarize them with the aims and objectives of the program then given the funds and all clear to deliver against the initiative. This is the kind of partnerships that the TTFA need to develop as we try to expand the player pool. And talking about expanding the player pool, the TTFA should do more to encourage more of our East Indian brothers and sisters to pick up the game. This is an untapped group that could really help to increase the player pool.

    • It is supported by the ministry of education.

    • Sheldon – wow. Thanks for sharing. Fantastic. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. These are the types of initiatives needed to expand the player pool. I can easily see corporate Tnt getting behind something like what’s shared in the video. Imagine having sessions like that every Saturday and Sunday morning. Then extending it to daily during the various school vacations. During the summer vacation period these can be extended to summer camps, and other sports can be incorporated. The kids would be in camp for 8 hrs exposing them to a variety of sports and cultural activities. A small fee could even be charged to help cover the cost of the camps. Parents would support this as it’ll keep the kids from being idled, serve as a daycare, and provide them (the kids) with an opportunity to learn a variety of sports and other skills.

    • Carlos Lee, each clinic cost about $20,000 to run. It was one of the first initiatives we developed and brought on board Mary Siu Butt to run the operation. It was a wonderful program that served over 2,000 youngsters. But I don’t think corporate T&T supported the program enough and unfortunately it was discontinued after a year.

    • Sheldon – was the video put together after the program came to an end? This is a very positive video. It’s hard to imagine corporate Tnt seeing something like this and not agreeing to support. When we tried selling the idea to them was the video or something similar used to gain their buy in?

    • Carlos, videos were made for every clinic and made available to a number of private and state owned companies. My recollection was that fetes and cricket were preferred by corporate T&T as sponsor targets.

    • Carlos Lee , my sentiment exactly. Couldn’t believe it.

    • Carlos forgetting which government was in charge then or what? Back then people wasn’t taking the Tim Kee administration serious when it said that NGC and TSTT etc. refused to support football. When cricket was getting whatever it wanted and Anil was building swimming pool, football was sent to the back of the line because “Tim Kee is PNM.”

    • Nigel – wouldn’t this have been under Brent Sancho?

    • Carlos it is immaterial whom the MoS was at the time, as that Ministry had nothing to do with this particular program in Debe. Not only that, but it is also tangential to the central issue raised about the lack of corporate support for football in general, and for football by the UNC government and its corporate entities in particular.

    • Sheldon Phillips, did TTFA have a finance committee during your time there? Who was responsible for following up with all those companies?

    • Lasana Liburd, there was a marketing manager with support staff in place that followed up with companies.

    • Sheldon could I ask who was the marketing manager?

    • Lasana Liburd how so ? The ministry has no formal policy on sports in schools

    • Lasana, not sure naming staff is important, relevant, or even fair at this point. TTFA had a president who supposedly had good relations with the business community but the needed support never materialized. I believe the issue of lukewarm corporate support had more to do with politics rather than personnel.

    • Sheldon Phillips, I don’t think any role in governance should be hidden or require an FOIA request to discover. Sometimes the issue is the sales pitch though. Might not have been on this occasion. But if it were my job to raise funds for TTFA during that time and I couldn’t, I would have resigned.
      The programme itself looked promising like Carlos said. Hopefully the current plan would succeed. But I’m uncomfortable about missing school time with no apparent plan to help the students catch up for losing a half day of school every week–as you have to factor in time to get to training area and time to get back to school.

    • One thing Sheldon. If I asked you for the coach of the Under-17 team at any particular time, you probably would not have had a problem giving it to me. Why is it different for an administrator?
      This isn’t an attack or dig. I’m just considering whether we are conditioned to threat certain workers differently to others.
      A coach lives and dies by his results ultimately. Should a marketing officer necessarily be different?

    • Lasana, are you really comparing a national team coach to an office worker? One is a public figure by virtue of the job and the other is not. Yes, both are results oriented positions. Secondly, you and few others know how the sponsorship game works here; especially when it involves cash. Hint; it has nothing to do with the pitch of an office worker and everything to do with relationships. One person we engaged because his relationship with a decision maker was a good one was told after his pitch; “people who play football do not wear yellow.” The problem is deeper than who is marketing manager.

    • I wouldn’t doubt the issue runs deep Sheldon Phillips. But you said marketing manager above and not office worker. If the TTFA hired and paid someone for the task of raising money, then I absolutely would want to know who the person is.
      You don’t think we should know who DJW’s marketing manager is?
      I don’t see any need for an organisation to be defensive about that.

    • I also don’t understand Sheldon’s hesitance to share the name of the Marketing Manager. A bit odd.

    • Carlos and Lasana, I don’t believe in throwing people under the bus especially in environments where people are more interested in casting blame rather than creating solutions. If you don’t understand, that’s ok.

    • Sheldon thanks for your explanations & I understand your point. My take is our country is small and sometimes a candidate is known in a field for specific quality. To me, knowing the person gives me an idea if the plan failed on it’s own [politics] or through nepotism where the right person wasn’t put. And no disrespect intended to anyone.

    • Nicholas and Carlos, I was told that Kyle Lequay was the TTFA’s marketing man for that period. I was also told that marketing then was a far sight better than now when DJW seems to handle everything and then just gives people the details after the fact.
      But all the same: Kyle Lequay is apparently the guy who was to raise funding for this.

    • So all this time trying to learn the identity of the marketing manager… to what end? We have the name now, so what now? How does that aid the discussion any? For what it’s worth Darren Millien did marketing work for the TTFA during this period, but I believe that was only related to the ill-fated Argentina tour, and Tony Harford also worked in a marketing capacity if memory serves correct. But again.. not sure how germane any of this is.

    • Nigel – It’s about transparency. A knowledgeable source was asked a fair question with respect to who held a specific staff position within the TTFA. Not sure why Sheldon thought attempts would be made to disparage the individual.

    • I don’t see the point in responding to that. Question answered. And we move on.

    • Carlos everyone always thinks someone else should be transparent yes. That there was an issue about releasing that name is head scratching stuff.

    • Tell me about it. Don’t understand why an FOIA request is needed for information that should be openly available and shared with the public ?

    • As for Darren Millien… Well his reputation in financial matters precedes him. But say what. That’s done eh. We move on…

    • Yes…it’s not so much the individual but trying to address what went wrong particularly in a small island with limited resources. What we know now, should guide us forward. Just like our politics we achieve less by constantly scrapping and rebuilding 🙁

    • Carlos it’s a pity this much effort isn’t being put into getting “transparency” from the current administration. As for Lasana… that information was already in the public domain, you yourself have reported in the marketing efforts over the years by the TTFA. Now you trying to make this out to be what it isn’t, some effort to hide information (that has been public for years), which is ridiculous.

      As Nicholas said it’s not about the individual, but about what efforts were made… but you pressed for a name and now you have it, hopefully it helps you now in some way.

    • Which is why it was ridiculous not to answer. It was never going to take more than a minute for me to get the answer. But whatever.
      No effort is going into transparency for the current administration? So because we asked Sheldon some questions we are suddenly DJW groupies? Lol.
      Dem really good yes.

    • Lasana not sure who called you a DJW groupie, but it would be interesting to see what the comparative number of critical articles written over the same period about the two administrations looks like. You were anything but impartial in your treatment of the previous administration, seems you made it your mission to aggressively go after them, with an apparent end to bringing an end to their term. Now, you seem satisfied with the odd perfunctory critique every now and then.

    • Lol. If you say so Nigel. Feel free to do that comparison if you’d like. I’d only take notice if you found something I wrote that was untrue.

    • Nice attempt to try and shift the goalposts, the current issue is why you seem to have taken a less aggressive stance in pursuing “transparency and accountability” from the TTFA since DJW was elected President. But if that ent something noteworthy to you, then cool, yuh silence only compounds it.

      • Earl Best

        Nigel, the suggestion that Lasana has been in any way soft on the current administration is nothing short of laughable. You must be making your judgement on the basis of the volume of information RECEIVED, certainly not on the basis of the volume of information SOUGHT.
        But, that rider notwithstanding, I am willing to bet that a review of Wired868 publications over the two relevant periods would prove you wrong.
        So if you have a day and maybe $1000 to spare…

    • Are people in charge of things going wrong?
      And do we continue to use those same people because they belong ?

  19. Anthony, fully agreed. I wonder if we may also.want to prioritize the higher ages in case of oversubscription.

  20. In my humble opinion, a parallel program is needed…one that seeks to identify the most talented at this age group early enough, and concurrently….a wider program that fosters the passion that the others may have for the game, from this second group there maybe late bloomers. The kids who are 8,9,10 etc. that are demonstrating a higher level of skill should be working with advanced coaches who have a great track record with this specific age group. Our pool is significantly smaller and thus, we have to be more calculated in our approach…leaving the identification and development of this group to chance means that you could be hitting or missing.

  21. Anything like this is a good initiative… I am not familiar with the previous programs but as Lasana said… notes should be made on what worked before and what didn’t. I know that our society is a ‘one off society’. We revel in one off successes but don’t follow up with succession plans.
    Let’s hope this works.

  22. Should we not have heard more about the turnout, success and opportunities for improvement learned of during the initial incarnation?

  23. Or maybe the turnout was low for U-8s during Walkes and Isa’s thing and that is why they left out that age group…

  24. Nwadike the elite programme is targeting U-13s I believe. Right? Maybe that is why Anton chose U-10s alone. Although I guess Walkes’ plan ran deeper as he also did U-8s.

  25. ..There are no secrets in football. This idea has been touted in TTFA and implemented elsewhere before. I remember helping the Bahamas FA organize the FIFA finance to do this way back in 2002. The issue is always generating the political will, finance and human resources to implement it properly and consistently..

  26. you didn’t have to go as far back as Walkes, isnt there an NLCB sponsored development program running?

  27. Not meant to be negative eh. If we try a youth programme, it fizzles out quietly. And we start another one… Is there anything we can learn from what happened before? Should we ask any questions about what happened before?

  28. Do we ever consider these things?

  29. My question is: What worked in the programme spearheaded with Walkes and what didn’t? Was finances the only reason it eventually closed down?
    Is the current idea better? Or not as robust?