“[…] It was easier [to coach in the 1980s and 90s] compared to now… Back then, children had a love for the game. Children nowadays, as a result of modern technology and social media, are more interested in being on an electronic device playing games than running around playing football. They have a hard time focusing and doing what is required to play football.
“Children 20 years ago wanted to play, children now want to sit down… Twenty years ago if I said that we will be going behind the [La Fortunee] Dam at 4am to train, some of the boys would be there before me.
“Now, if I want to go behind the dam to train I can’t tell the children that until they arrive [at Mahaica Oval], otherwise they may not come out to train at all. I alone might be behind the dam!”
Wired868 highlights the day-to-day lives of everyday Trinbagonians in our ongoing series entitled: ‘A day in the life…’ Today, contributor Dana Michelle John speaks with Neville Frederick, otherwise known as ‘Coachee’ and ‘Villa’, who has coached hundreds of young footballers from Point Fortin and its environs over the past four decades, but now needs assistance to have a heart operation:
What can you say about your background?
I grew up in Mahaica, Point Fortin and I started playing football at the age of 9. I was coached by Leroy De Leon and in 1976, at the age of 18, I made my debut with Civic Centre Football Club. I played with Monty Douglas, Wilfred Cave, Ken McCree and Trevor Fredrick to name a few.
I started to coach in 1980, the same year Point Fortin became a borough. I was 23 years old. At that point, I had stopped playing football.
Why did you decide to become a football coach?
Richard De Leon, son of Leroy De Leon, and Darren Commissiong used to go to La Brea to play under Michael Lambert. Michael coached a few football teams in La Brea at the time and entered them in the Southern Football League. Players from Point Fortin would go to La Brea to play and Richard and Darren used to complain to me that they were not getting to play when they went to La Brea. They suggested that I should start coaching in Point. That is how I started.
What were the early days like?
I started with about 12 players at the back of the Point Fortin RC school and then we moved to the Mahaica Oval. We had about 45 players when we started at the Oval. Then it just grew until I had about four teams.
The first year, 1980, I had an under-13 and an under-15 team and by 1982 I had four teams: under-13, under-15, under-17 and under-19. I got more coaches to work with me. Gregory Steele and Farrell Mungo would coach the younger players while I coached the under-17s and under-19s. Robert James was the manager.
How were you funded?
We started off as Point Fortin United and after the first year or so Civic Centre Football Club approached me to join with them. I joined with Civic Centre and got sponsorship through them. They would pay for transportation, uniforms, etc.
There was no salary for me and the staff. We just did it for the love of it. I still do not receive a salary.
Were you otherwise employed?
At first, no, but then I worked casual at the Point Fortin Borough Corporation until becoming permanent in 2005. I retired in 2017 after 21 years of service.
What more can you say about your coaching career?
I coached over a thousand players. Some of these players are: Avery John, Adaryll John, Reynold Carrington, Anthony Rougier, Keyeno Thomas, Kester Cornwall, Sherwyn Julien, Nkosi Blackman, Sherman ‘Ants’ Phillip, Ronnie and Dia Hunte, Nickolson ‘Iceman’ Thomas, Kendell ‘Neck’ Davis, Lyndon ‘Launch Pad’ Diaz, Matthew Bartholomew, Andre Toussaint, David Atiba Charles, Addison Belfon, Selwyn George, Michael Edwards, Andre Ettienne, Aubrey David, Jamille Boatswain and the late Akeem Adams, to name a few.
I also coached an under-15 girls team for one year.
I coached from 1980 until last year, when we had to stop because of the pandemic. I have never stopped coaching.
Did you ever coach a professional team?
Yes, I coached Civic Centre Football Club for their first year in the Pro League and I am currently coaching their under-15 team. I also coached Uprising Football Club from fourth division straight to semi-professional, around 1996 to 1998. There was no Pro league at that time.
Do you have any professional qualifications?
Yes, I have the Concacaf ‘C’ license and Level One and Level Two national licenses.
What would you say is the difference between coaching now and back in the 1980s and 90’s?
It was easier then compared to now. The attitude of the children now is very different to children 20 years ago. Back then, children had a love for the game. Children nowadays, as a result of modern technology and social media, are more interested in being on an electronic device playing games than running around playing football. They have a hard time focusing and doing what is required to play football.
Children 20 years ago wanted to play, children now want to sit down. Less children now are interested in football than 20 years ago. For example, 20 years ago if I said that we will be going behind the [La Fortunee] Dam at 4am to train, some of the boys would be there before me. Now, if I want to go behind the dam to train I can’t tell the children that until they arrive [at Mahaica Oval], otherwise they may not come out to train at all. I alone might be behind the dam!
Why do you still coach?
Because I love doing it—and apart from that, parents keep bringing their children, so it is hard to stop! Players who I have coached are now bringing their children for me to coach. For example, I am now coaching Nickolson’s son, Tyshawn Thomas.
What are your most memorable moments as a coach?
Back in 1986, there was a National Under-16 tournament that was sponsored by Maritime Life Insurance. The prize money was TT$95,000. We entered the tournament and won. We were overjoyed. Richard Braithwaite, who worked with Trintoc at that time, arranged a maxi taxi for all the boys and their parents to attend the ceremony in the VIP room of the National Stadium. He was not involved with the TTFA or Concacaf at that time.
When we got to the ceremony, I was handed an envelope with a check for TT$1,000. I was extremely disappointed. I got a headache from Port of Spain to Point! For a moment I felt like I did not want to coach anymore. We had a lot of plans for the money. Dunlop had just closed down and they had a maxi for sale for TT$60,000. We had plans to buy the maxi for the team.
Richard De Leon and Brian Jordan (former Naparima College football captain) were on that under-16 team. That was my saddest moment in coaching. The love of the game kept me going.
Were you given a reason for the discrepancy in the prize money?
I was told that the TTFA wanted to sponsor an upcoming Under-17 tournament and they would be using the money for that. At that point, I felt like there was nothing that I could do. Jack Warner was the messiah of the football in Trinidad, so anything he say everyone had to put their tail between their legs and just go with it.
Any other memorable moments?
Yes. Winning the FA Cup and the League Cup trophies in the National Under 20 league with the Civic Centre team. All the big teams such as: Jabloteh and Defence Force were in that league. Sherman ‘Ants’ Phillip, Keyeno Thomas and Lester Salick were on our team. That was a great achievement for me; I felt very happy. That was around 1996.
What would you say to young people who want to get into coaching?
I would say that it is a serious commitment. You must be committed.
What do you think about the future of Trinidad and Tobago football?
I think that we have a long way to go. After the 2006 World Cup, there was nothing in place to continue in that vein. There is a big gap between that level of football and where we are in Trinidad and Tobago and we don’t have anything in place to develop the players and bridge that gap.
We need to have youth programs in place. We need to start to develop the players from the primary school level. It would not happen over night. It takes time.
When you decide to retire, is there anyone to take up the slack?
Yes. Sean Eastman, Nickolson Thomas, Bartholomew and others are putting things in place. They are looking at implementing a good structure for youth programs and utilising young coaches. I believe that coaching in Point Fortin would be in good hands.
Editor’s Note: On New Year’s Day 2021, while preparing to take his usual football sweat, Neville ‘Coachee’ Frederick began having chest pains and shortness of breath. He couldn’t attend the match that day and, upon seeing a doctor, he was told that he had a blocked artery in his heart.
Frederick is scheduled to undergo surgery to put in a stent in his heart on 30 June 2021 and he needs an angiogram before then. The total cost is approximately TT$115,000.
For anyone who wants to help support Neville Frederick, please donate to his bank account: RBC #100085171151794.