Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Under-20 Team trainer Trey Hart submitted his resignation to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) yesterday, after alleging discrimination by his former employer.
Hart is a strength and conditioning officer at the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago and also works with Pro League team Cunupia FC and was involved with the Women’s National Senior Team under former head coach Jamaal Shabazz.
He holds a Bachelor’s in Sport Science – Kinesiology and Exercise Physiology, a Fifa diploma in Football – Medicine and is certified in strength and conditioning and workload management football.
He has been replaced on the Under-20 Team technical staff by Saron Joseph, who, according to Hart, holds a certificate from a six-month long PTI (Physical Training Instructor) course. Wired868 contacted Joseph for more information on his educational background but did not get a response up until the time of publication.
However, what Joseph does have is a wealth of experience at local and international level.
He worked alongside National Under-20 Team head coach Derek King on the technical staff of former Men’s National Senior Team head coach Stephen Hart—no relation to Trey. And Joseph also has history with current National Under-20 Team assistant coaches Stern John and Angus Eve having previously worked with Central FC and Naparima College respectively.
Joseph was also a member of former Men’s National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence’s technical staff.
Hart said he was informed by technical committee chairman Keith Look Loy, via text message on 6 March, that he was reassigned to the Women’s Under-15 Team. When he pressed for an explanation, King told him that he had ‘chemistry’ with Joseph and simply preferred to work with the latter trainer.
“[King] said he is sorry that the chemistry between me and his technical staff didn’t work out,” said Hart. “If ‘lack of chemistry’ is grounds for reassignment, then he should hire his wife! […] It is my opinion that this shows the nepotism that [exists] within the organisational structure, as there was no review of my performance by either the head coach or technical committee to warrant my reassignment, nor was there any communication to suggest my knowledge or application was unsatisfactory.
“The only [thing I was told] is that I do not have a previous relationship with the coach. If that allegation is deemed correct, it goes against the Equal Opportunity Act of Trinidad and Tobago.
“Why should anyone invest in improving their professional capacity if this is the hiring criteria?”
King and Look Loy declined comment on Hart’s resignation.
Wired868 understands that Joseph would have been King’s first choice from day one. However, the new technical set-up, proposed by Look Loy and approved by the TTFA Board, changed the way that technical staffs are selected.
In the past, the appointed head coach would request his support staff from the TTFA board, via the technical committee. At present, though, the technical committee draws up its own coaching staffs which it takes to the board. Coaches are sometimes asked for feedback but that is at the discretion of the committee.
The current TTFA technical committee comprises of: Look Loy (chairman), Narvin Charles, Dale Toney, Michael Grayson and Ken Elie. Richard Piper, Jinelle James and Norris Ferguson are adjunct committee members who do not hold voting rights.
Although Hart accepted that head coaches usually select their own support staff, he said that his re-assignment ran contrary to Look Loy’s technical set-up.
“This […] goes against the 16 January press release which states that members of staff will be chosen for teams, based on their potential to positively impact teams,” stated Hart, in his resignation letter to Look Loy. “Additionally, upon hiring the technical staff, you stated that teams do not belong to the coaches but rather the TTFA—so how can this situation happen?
“I end this letter with a heavy heart as it hurts me to walk away from the opportunity to work with the U-15 Girls technical staff to further the development of our next generation.
“However, I believe this is a necessary step towards promoting change for current and future sport professionals within my industry, as our knowledge and personal investment need to be respected.”
Hart pointed out that in the United States and other countries with developed sport industries, the basic requirement to work with a top tier team as a trainer or sport scientist is a bachelor’s degree. He claimed Trinidad and Tobago’s football industry is slow in recognising the value of proper certification, despite repeated public complaints about the poor fitness level of local teams.
“The reason I seek to make this public is the lack of respect for educated professionals within the realm of football in Trinidad and Tobago,” said Hart. “Most teams in the Pro League don’t even have a physical trainer; and those who do might not have a qualified trainer—they may just have done a PTI course, which I don’t think is sufficient to deal with national team athletes.
“A PTI course is three months or even less as opposed to someone with a bachelor’s and master’s degree who has studied for three years about movement and high performance preparation. They are just not at the same level.
“I think it is a matter of ignorance and I hold no malice towards the TTFA and the people involved. I just think from a professional perspective these are some of the things that need to be addressed.”
Coincidentally, the TTFA installed a medical and sports science committee on Tuesday which is meant to oversee the following programmes: education and research; sports nutrition; medical and anti-doping; mental acuity; injury prevention and active recovery; and peak performance training.
The committee will be chaired by Dr Marisa Nimrod and includes former Fifa medical committee member Dr Terence Babwah and respected local practitioners like Dr Anyl Gopeesingh, Commander Dr Israel Dowlat and Gregory Seale.
And while national teams have rarely travelled with qualified physiotherapists over the past decade, there are several physios attached to current teams.
Dr Oba Gulston, who heads the Cricket West Indies (CWI) science and medicine department and worked as physio for Leo Beenhakker’s 2006 World Cup team, agreed that it is important to have expertise in sport science on teams—but said the TTFA is making strides.
“In this modern day and age, [employees in one of the sport sciences] should have the minimum of a bachelor’s degree in one of the associated fields,” said Gulston, “as well as association with one of the professional organisations—for example, the United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA).
“The difference in a qualified or unqualified trainer is like going to the hospital but instead of being seen by a doctor, you are seen by an orderly… People who don’t have the qualifications might have been around the block and seen how things are done; but the rationale of why and how and cause and effect might not be there.
“That’s the difference between doing a short course and a degree. The unqualified trainer might have really nice exercises but when you sit down and discuss training periodisation and how to load it and so on, they won’t be able to tell you.”
Gulston, who runs the Sports Medictt clinic for athletes in St Augustine, said he knows lots of cases when athletes in various sports suffered career-ending injuries because they were trained or treated by unqualified persons. Those trainers and their employers, he said, were fortunate that Trinidad and Tobago is not big on litigation in those areas.
“[…] If you don’t have duly qualified physios and trainers you can put players at risk,” he said, “and they can even be denied insurance, for instance, if they were attended to by someone who was not duly qualified. It is about reliability, responsibility and safety, especially when you are working with youth players…
“There is always a thin line between pushing athletes to the limit for a training response and child abuse.”
However, Gulston also pointed out that while certification was important, it was not the only thing when it comes to being able to operate within a technical staff. And, he said, even trainers with PTI courses can add value.
“Education and qualification is important but the most qualified person isn’t always the best for the job,” he said. “While it is important to have a base qualification, you would know coaches with a Pro license who can’t read group dynamics or interact with the squad.
“[…] There are roles for the people without degrees. Some of them are able to have great rapport with players and so on. But they should work alongside a trained physio or have a sport scientist overseeing things.
“[…] It is not just about having a degree but understanding how to work as part of a team. So it is a complicated thing. You don’t want to put children at risk; but at the same time you want the right mechanics and dynamics within a team.”
For the 27 year old Hart, he will continue with Cunupia where he is in his first full season. Cunupia, who are Pro League debutantes, are at the foot of the 11 team standings at present—although they did advance to the semifinals of the 2019 First Citizens Cup.
Unlike the majority of their rivals, Cunupia do not receive a government subvention and Hart said there are resulting internal issues that impact on team performances. However, they have given Hart a platform to use his craft in a competitive environment.
“I have data to show the benefits since Cunupia invested in the GPS monitoring system, which we use to validate our sessions—based on what we are trying to accomplish and our periodisation plan—and match day performance,” he said. “We also use the data to set requirements for player selection based on their position. For instance, our central attacking midfielder covers the most distance in a game based on our formation, so we have to make sure that person is someone with a high work load and work ethic.
“Rather than use the naked eye, we use science to examine his work to rest ratio in training, so as to help us make decisions like that.”
Hart, who said he invested in his education due to the shortage of sport science professionals within the local fraternity, hopes to get another opportunity to bring his knowledge to the international stage in the future.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE for more information on the TTFA medical and sports science committee.