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Stern: I’m trying to stamp my authority; U-17 coach warns parents about interfering with sessions

New Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 Team head coach Stern John wasted little time in making his presence felt on the job as, even before his first training session, he advised parents that silence is golden.

A memo by national manager Aaron Pollard to parents last week warned that they would no longer be welcome at training sessions.

“The head coach has instructed that parents/family/friends would no longer be able to stay in the stands to view the sessions,” stated Pollard’s despatch. “Please abide by the wishes of the head coach…”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team assistant coach Stern John (foreground) leads the squad in training at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Malabar on 8 March 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

In the end, John opted not to take such a drastic stance. The former Soca Warriors hero—he is still Trinidad and Tobago’s record goal scorer with 70 full international goals—said he appreciates some parents would travel long distances to drop their sons off and could not reasonably be expected to leave and return for them.

However, the current National Senior Team assistant coach wants to keep tabs on who attends his sessions and their behaviour once present.

“I’ve heard reports that, before, parents were showing up at the practice and distracting the kids by shouting orders from the stands and so on,” John told Wired868. “I’ve coached at academies around the world and parents aren’t allowed to be on the training facilities because they can be a distraction.

“We know in some cases that parents would drop their child from Port of Spain and it is a long way to go back and then come again to pick up their child after training. So we are saying they can show up [to watch training] but they have to ask.

“We know they want to be a part of it and we want them to be a part of it. We just want them to also respect what we are doing and not interfere. We want the parents to buy into the philosophy of what we are doing now.”

The National Under-17 Team begin their World Youth Cup qualifying campaign at Concacaf level on 1 May when they challenge Bermuda in what could be a decisive affair.

Photo: The T&T National U-15 Team pose at the 2017 CONCACAF Championship.
Those players are expected to make up the spine of the current U-17 Team.
(Back row, left to right) Darian Bradshaw, Justin Araujo-Wilson, Adriel George, Jean-Heim Mc Fee, Marc Wharfe, Cephas St Rose.
(Front row, left to right) Randy Antoine, Josiah Edwards, Jaiye Sheppard, Jabari Lee and Kernel La Fon.
(Courtesy TTFA Media)

Trinidad and Tobago are grouped with Bermuda, Jamaica and Mexico and one from the quartet will be eliminated while the other three advance to the quarterfinal round.

The junior Warriors have not trained since April 2018 and John has roughly seven weeks to create a team fit for tournament play. Notably, his core players were mauled at Concacaf Under-15 level in 2017—under then head coach Russell Latapy—when they conceded 21 goals in four matches, including an 8-1 loss to Jamaica.

Yesterday, John arranged two scrimmage matches between his 31 inherited players and a North Zone XI team. At the end of the games, the Under-17 coach invited five boys from the North team to join his training squad.

The coach hopes to continue such scouting sessions in every zone, including Tobago—although it is unlikely that any other region has a youth team already drawn up, as does the North Zone under president Anthony Harford.

John also hopes to have a combine in Miami to allow him a chance to scout eligible players in North America, who expressed willingness to represent the ‘Red, White and Black’.

Whether Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president David John-Williams is minded to expend much resources on the development and dreams of the young men is another matter entirely.

Photo: TTFA president David John-Williams (right) has a word with Trinidad and Tobago national youth coach Russell Latapy on the training ground before the 2016 U-17 CFU competition.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

John’s technical staff will consist entirely of persons willing to work without pay—an astounding reality considering that the John-Williams-led body gets more than three times the FIFA funding available to previous bodies.

More than five months after the National Under-20 Team were disbanded, Wired868 can confirm that their staff members are still owed as much as 10 months’ stipend, estimated at between TT$3,000 and $5,000 per month.

Five members of the Under-20 staff, headed by Latapy, were members of the Defence Force and were therefore forbidden from refusing national duty—a technicality that often makes soldiers coveted employees during lean financial times.

Yet the Under-20 team’s preparation ground to a halt for close to three months, as Latapy cajoled John-Williams to eventually meet part—but not all—of their arrears.

“There were some staff members who were not working and [the non-payment of stipends] really mashed them up but they were afraid to talk out of fear of not getting a job again,” said one football insider. “It affected the boys because they were not able to train and they would see coaches watching them at a school game and ask what is happening; and the coaches couldn’t tell them when they would train again.

“It was unfair to them but it was unfair to [the coaches] too.”

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago National U-20 Team pose before kick off against St Vincent and the Grenadines during U-20 Concacaf Championship action at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida on 1 November 2018.
(Copyright Marissa Homer)

John-Williams opted to avoid such friction with the National Under-17s; not by pumping some of the TTFA’s development money into the team or activating the body’s marketing and finance committees to raise funds for their campaign. Instead, he restricted potential employees to those willing to do the job pro bono.

John, the head coach at Pro League club Central FC for the past year and a half and National Senior Team assistant coach for the last two years, thinks he has what it takes to succeed though.

“It is a great opportunity for me and I am relishing the opportunity,” said John. “People say I don’t have experience; but I have a lot of experience. I have been in the Pro League for a number of years as head coach and assistant to Dale Saunders and Dennis Lawrence on the senior team.

“I won the Caribbean Championship with Central [as assistant coach] and I think I have a lot to offer.”

Pushy parents and preparation problems aside, John’s most pressing issue appears to be the timing of the CSEC examinations which takes place in mid-tournament. Social studies, Caribbean history and English literature are scheduled for early May while mathematics and English language—scheduled for 14 and 15 May respectively—could be another headache if Trinidad and Tobago advance to the semifinal round.

The Jamaica and Barbados football teams are in the same boat and, since the CXC ruled out deferring the exam times for the players, team manager Aaron Pollard is expected to request that the TTFA petition the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) to fund the cost of sending an invigilator to Florida to oversee the tests.

Photo: North Zone XI attacker Keron Manswell (centre) holds off Trinidad and Tobago National Under-15 players Tristan Caesar (left) and Jarique Williams during action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 15 April 2017.
Manswell now plays for St Anthony’s College.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Failing that, the hope is the three FAs collaborate to split costs for sending an invigilator to the Concacaf competition.

Either way, new TTFA general secretary Camara David would be expected to step in quickly to assure parents that their children’s academic pursuits will not be affected.

Wired868 understands that some parents are willing to have their children skip the exams altogether and sit them the following year. However, most are reluctant to have their teenaged sons make such a sacrifice.

John is leaning on Pollard, a teacher at Trinity College East, to find a solution while he focuses on creating a team capable of competing at Concacaf level. He is mindful of the team’s horror show at Under-15 level and suggested that he wants to take strong characters to Florida.

“I have to see what players we have before we know our style of play, even though I have a style in my head,” said John. “I want to put the ball down and play; but if we don’t have the players to do that, then we can’t. We don’t want to just show up for tournaments, we want to compete; and if we have to make the game ugly to do that then so be it—just like Jamaica would do to us in the past.

“This is about tournament play and it is not about playing pretty football, it is about getting a result.”

Photo: Central FC coach Stern John (left) points the way for his players during FCB Cup final action against Defence Force at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 20 July 2018.
(Copyright Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

The National Under-17 Team held their first session under John today at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella, although John’s backroom staff is still to be confirmed. For now, he is utilising the remnants of Latapy’s technical team.

“I am trying to stamp my authority and do things a bit differently,” said John. “I know we don’t have much time, so we are trying to hit the ground running. Before this team trained twice a week but now we will train five times a week.

“I know I need the parents on my side to do that. We met with them [yesterday] and it went very well.”

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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  1. The fact that he’s saying “I’m trying to stamp my authority” doesn’t auger well. Authority should be evident, obvious and understood. A good coach would be working on influence. Players/students who are influenced learn faster and retain longer. Coaching is 90% head and heart

  2. I have heard more than 1 person lament about footballers taking up space in schools that weren’t academically inclined.

    • Toco Nicky in our general population, there are kids who do not play sports needing more assistance than others. Not sure why we expect kids who play football to be different. Teachers have to teach and parents have to work with school and kids to get improvement wherever possible.

  3. John talks on U-17 preparations, support of parents

  4. The greatest irony is that the lead lecturer is a Trini girl who came out of our Right on Track program. She used the program as the basis of her doctoral thesis and reference material in part for the course. She’s been offering her services for years to Trinidad but no interest. .

  5. We used the experiences of the coaches who come from various sports. .boxing. .track..cricket. ..swimming. .special Olympics. .football. .as the basis for discussion and then mapped the theoretical formulations onto that. It was Olympic f
    unded .We then had to do a comprehensive report for the sponsors. Having developed a model we..the steel. Vincent and Grenadines Olympic Committee will now copyright it.Then later in the year we are looking at a review seminar. The coaches have also created a Watts app page so they keep sharing with us and among themselves.

  6. I was part of a team that presented a psychology course to 37 coaches in St Vincent from January 12th -19th. .Two
    lecturers from Sheffield university led the team. Three weeks later they put on a course on Olympic values. The point? Coaching education and development is an ongoing process. St. Vincent has a population of 100th
    circa and punches above its weight in international sports as does islands like Dominica. Look how easily they handle us in football some of these small islands. Quick last minute fixes never work. As the floundering Premier League teams

  7. Anybody with a smattering of psychological philosophy knows that ‘stamping authority and excluding ‘parental influence’ approach will fail..How does one ‘stamp one’s authority?’ If that method worked all our championship teams would come from the military and armies would win world cups and Olympic models persistently.

  8. Stern John unveils Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 technical staff, ex-Soca Warriors captain and QRC assistant coach Kenwyne Jones named as national youth team assistant

  9. It seems like the corrupted Jack Warner is still their advisor Them really good yes

  10. I know,

    And it will be used as an excuse combined with the lack of funding

  11. pro bono is working for” free “

  12. Working pro bono

    Next is the excuse of no money and working for free

  13. no football team under any adminstration was ever properly prepared.name one maybe 1973 concacaf world cup qualifier

  14. Only ah set ah bootleg Coaches continues to take our football to the point of no return in our sweet country Them really good yes

    • Earl Pierre ?????? took you long enough?????? and people still trying to support and justify these unprofessional and proven failed approaches

    • Imagine it have people watching this football suicide approach and offering well wishes???

    • Brent Elder I have been trying to be nice these days and be positive and not continue with meh bachanalist tendencies but sometimes when I read the headlines I just cannot help myself eh so Bootleg coach Stern John really thinks that the parents will put the football first before their children education especially when they can get a football scholarship to further their education abroad in my second sweetest country and especially how our players and some of the coaching staff are being treated being owed their well deserved monies Them really good yes steeuupsss

    • Brent Elder what choice do we have, every concern or suggestion is falling on deaf ears. I say yeah, God speed.

    • Timothy Rochford if I offer solutions.. I might break the internet? but ?? not going to impact the football world positively post our earlier successes.. but supporting crime and that is what it is in any form is criminal

  15. I think that’s standard internationally though. Parents not usually allowed to attend training

  16. Using the six weeks available for team preparation to screen players is to waste valuable time. It is what it is. Stern needs to implement a crash physical/tactical preparation programme with the players he has. IF one or two special boys appear from over the horizon, then fine.

  17. Rookie coach…. trying to assert himself the wrong way…. I wrote a paper/article on the advantages of having parents invested in their children’s sports maybe I will post it here soon

    • Tony Maxwell Hatt Please, thanks!

    • A short version of it. …..

      “It goes without saying that parents have an important role in the sporting development of their child. However, caution needs to be taken in their approach as parental behaviors can have both positive and negative effects on their child’s sporting experience. Parents should not underestimate the influence on the impact they have on a child’s sporting experience. It can range from positive to negative.
      Positive involvement includes supporting your child through ways such as verbal encouragement, your presence at a game shows the support and vested interest you have in their involvement, allowing your child to make his/her own decisions about what sport to participate in, and providing financial and other resources that enable his/her participation.
      Negative involvement refers to directive behavior, and pressure to win or perform up to a parent’s expectations. It is critical to bear in mind that over-involved parents may create high levels of pressure to the child performance, while under-involved parents do not provide enough support to facilitate a child’s desire to participate. Parents who are moderately involved seem to provide just the right balance not only to facilitate enjoyment, but also to challenge the child to continue to grow and develop his/her skills.
      Without support, especially financial and emotional, it would be very difficult for a child to be able to participate, and the pressure felt from the parent who is over-involved could easily take out all the enjoyment of playing sports. I recommend discussing with your child things that you might do involving their sports participation that could be perceived as stressful for your child, and things that your child enjoys. If your child feels you are a bit over-involved, it may be difficult to hear but it is best to understand that the less pressure you put on the child the more comfortable the child will be. The best thing you can do for them in this case is to really take to heart how they feel and reduce your involvement if necessary, no matter how much it hurts.
      That is why coaching is not just X’s and O’s. Good coaches are great life teachers – a good coach understands that what he is teaching goes far beyond the training plan. This kind of coach does not just teach the skills, technique and strategy within the narrow confines of the sport. Instead he looks for opportunities where the more important life lessons can be taught such as mastering hardship, handling and rebounding from failures and setbacks, trusting your teammates, sacrificing individual needs for the benefit of the group, emotionally dealing with winning and losing, good sportsmanship, fair play, honesty, integrity, etc.”

      I support the coach regarding too much parental involvement, but every environment is different, and he must be careful of isolating the parent from the child which can be counterproductive.


    • Tony Maxwell Hatt thanks. This is much appreciated.

    • The importance of the role parents play in youth sport is unquestionable…. but caution must be taken to ensure the enjoyment and sporting development of children is not hindered.

  18. You want them to be part of the experience by banning them from the experience of viewing it? Lol…..listen clearly you don’t want parents involved verbally in your sessions put rules in place for that but you don’t ban parents from these sessions with out these parents you don’t have a team wether you like it or not …show some respect…or at least some common sense dummy…..

  19. Yet again…another WC preparation starting weeks before a Qualifying campaign…does d TTFA only hire ppl who doh kno what d definition of insanity is (doin the same thing over an over and expectin different results)…geez

  20. Combine in Miami, Really? 7-8 weeks with CXC and no plan for foreign eligible players. Worried about parents and practice, go talk to them..not encouraging. Hope someone working on visas for the player pool

  21. This is the wrong approach but again it’s the TTFA so it’s the norm… seven weeks eh

  22. Can we get a list of players in training?

  23. It is a sad state when a national association have people working probono….when would d cycle stop

    • Ancil Santana when individuals simply take a principled stance and say NO.. but they feel by saying yes they’re being patriotic.. it’s a slap in the face for all who are trying to change that wrong practise

  24. Best of luck to the staff and boys. Pretty big hill to climb.

  25. People like Stern John and others would forever keep setting bad precedent with that Pro bono approach.. rank failure

    • Lasana Liburd you know how many great staff I know from far back who gave their all to ??and when they were and are in need of ? the same ?? didn’t bat an eyelid.. and in elite sport moreso at the international levels don’t think even the communist countries doing that.. people mistake stupidity for patriotism

    • Lasana Liburd what they doing is a slap in face to all forms of the game under TTFA and is downright selfish

    • I don’t agree that paying for a coach definitely makes them better but only a financially secure person can afford to work pro bono..

    • If y’all are downright straight forward with ??football history in local parlance money doh pass for football… whey it keeps going that ??forever in dire straits and situation and would NEVER EVER come out of the rot until it is done properly… that team going get the face beat off plain and simple.. let’s hope they ain’t get 22-0 like a former u15 team in 2016 and we say it was a great experience.. just add at FAILURE??

    • stern john doing it to get coaching experience

    • Roger not necessarily, maybe someone who may know what is at stake!

    • Kyon which is what volunteering is about in part!

    • Toco Nicky whatever the motivation if the person can’t feed himself without immediate payment they can’t do it..

    • I agree on the principle of your point about working pro bono. Horrible for a national team because it means players don’t get chance to work with best possible coaching staff.
      That’s as a general rule and not a dig at the U-17 staff in particular.

    • Brent Elder exactly how much money does the FA get?
      I’ve heard about a FIFA grant that’s now USD 250K (a year). Is it that there is more that we don’t know about?
      What we know is that are 7 youth teams and 2 senior teams. At a minimum I believe youth teams need 700k a year while 5 million for the seniors. That’s about 10 million a year (my estimation) to run national teams.
      Can the TTFA raise 10 million a year?

    • Kester Lendor, first the FIFA grants are over USD$1.25 million now. When you tap into the all the money available from FIFA and CONCACAF alone, you’re looking at over TT$7 million.
      And even the SSFL could engineer a USD$1.5 million deal. Our TTFA had long standing multi million dollar partnerships with the likes of Carib, TSTT, NGC…
      So you’re saying TT$10 million is implausible?
      Secondly, all nine teams are not active at once. As you should know.
      And while we are it, NLCB gave $8 million to U-15 boys and girls team with budget to play a certain number of international games, host camps and pay coaches. None of those three things has been happening at level agreed.
      So what you should be asking yourself is why not.

    • Lasana Liburd I’m asking questions because I don’t know. Is that FIFA grant a yearly one. I’m sure I read it was 250k a year every 5 years, but I could be wrong.
      Carib yoy cant be serious Lasana. They havent been in football for what 10 years. Colin Murray was approached on a few occasions by the super league when he was still in a senior managerial position there and nothing was forth coming. Ray Tim Kee was an executive at a huge insurance co. While he was President and football didnt get a cent from his employers.
      How much was TSTTs donation?
      What happens when these companies decide they can’t anymore as what is happening with ALL sports?
      Ive been involved in two sports organizations that were in serious financial problems, so please, enlighten me, cuz me eh know.

    • I wonder if Stern John and company have any knowledge of these players ?Why have Angus eve,Jerry Moe or even Kevin Jeffrey being overlooked ? Someone please tell me whats the requirements to become a national team coach please

    • Angus not working for free.Volunterism is truly dead in this country.

    • Kester Lendor one of Infantino’s campaign promises was to more than treble that subvention. And he did so.
      It is true that companies are more careful about spending. But to go to zero?
      I think something is wrong with the TTFA’s pitch to get nothing at all. And we should already have an idea of what is wrong.

    • Lasana Liburd Dwight Yorke should coach pro bono too.buuld ah good rep.then look for d big pay.instead of crying “nobody doh want to hire d black man”

    • Collin Cudjoe why should DY do it

    • because as a player he was ah player?

    • Collin Cudjoe read his biography since u13 thereof he gave of himself for ?? didn’t even live in his parents house much.. guess we’ll never understand and keep trivializing??

    • his bio is replete with one night stand relationships even his man u manager spoke about his Life style guess i read d wrong bio.

    • I don’t know how a man’s personal life come into this. Dwight Yorke was young, single and would have had it all thrown at him when he was a United player. Did I want him to focus on his United career more? Yes but I’m still happy for the good service he gave short though it was..

    • Roger Wilson I myself was utterly surprised but I guess I shouldn’t be ??? I would advise anybody and young player to read his bio btw.. a billion lessons of value.. and I would never support no pro bono nothing in ?? unless is national natural disaster.. outside of that with elite sports there’s always ? involved and they always wan to bs someone with that nationalism, etc.. why ??TTFA don’t say we are unable to partake in any international events until they get their house in order first..they’re a bunch who don’t know that they don’t know they don’t know that they don’t know

    • Roger Wilson not me bro i eh judging Just stating d facts.

    • Timothy Rochford who said what?