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Dear Editor: T&T U-21 hockey teams go straight from quarantine to action in Chile—how can they perform?

“[…] (The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-21 Hockey teams) left at midnight on Thursday, spent 13 hours at the airport in Panama, and finally arrived in Chile on Saturday morning. Then, they were placed in quarantine for up to 48 hours, until they got their PCR test results.

“This means that the players will be coming out of quarantine between Sunday and Monday morning to play their first game against the well-rested USA team tomorrow… We wonder why our Trinidad athletes may not perform optimally? This whole process was demotivating…”

Photo: Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe (left) greets Trinidad and Tobago national hockey players at the St James Barracks.
(via MSCD)

The following Letter to the Editor on issues affecting the Trinidad and Tobago national hockey teams at the Chile 2021 Pan American Hockey U-21 Tournament was submitted by ‘A Concerned Parent’:

The Trinidad and Tobago National Under-21 Hockey teams have been training tirelessly for the last year for the 2021 Pan Am Under-21 Tournament, which serves as qualifiers for the 2022 IFH World Cup. This tournament started in Chile yesterday.

However, at this time, permit me to elaborate on the tremendous adversities that the teams have been facing throughout this past Covid pandemic year.

First off, the teams constantly had to seek alternative places to train because the turf in Tacarigua—which would have been the ideal location—has been abandoned and is currently in disrepair. The turf at the St James Barracks, an alternative training site, was often unavailable because rain made the field water-soaked and unusable.  

The Woodbrook Youth Facility could not be used because it is an indoor facility, and Covid-19 social distancing protocols made training there impossible. Therefore, the Diego Martin Sport Complex was the only facility available for training.  

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Hockey Board (TTHB) president Douglas Camacho (centre) poses with 2019 Players of the Year Mikel Pierre (left) and Kaitlyn Olton.
Olton is a current member of the Trinidad and Tobago National U-21 Team.
(via TTHB)

The teams used the school facilities and trained diligently for a 15 August departure to Chile. But alas, adversity and disappointment struck again! These young athletes were belatedly told to prepare for a 17 August departure instead. And then it became a 19 August departure—because the Trinidad and Tobago Hockey Board and the organising committee failed to make the funds available for the 15 August departure date as promised.  

Can you imagine how discouraging this is for these young people who spent an entire year giving of their time and talent, trying to perfect their game to represent our beloved TnT?

By the time the money was made available, four days later than promised, all flights were sold out. And in the end, the athletes got only a few hours’ notice before they travelled on Thursday.

They left at midnight on Thursday, spent 13 hours at the airport in Panama, and finally arrived in Chile on Saturday morning. Then, they were placed in quarantine for up to 48 hours, until they got their PCR test results.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago National U-21 Hockey captain Teague Marcano (right) takes evasive action during an international game.

This means that our Women’s Under-21 players will be coming out of quarantine between Sunday and Monday morning to play their first game against the well-rested USA team tomorrow. (The Men’s Under-21 players face USA on 24 August.) We wish them the best of luck.

I think our National Under-21 Hockey teams got a raw deal. Through no fault of their own, they are now placed at an obvious disadvantage with no prior training on the hockey field in Chile—after having endured tiring flights, uncertainty regarding the availability of funds, and sub-optimal training fields throughout the year.

We wonder why our Trinidad athletes may not perform optimally? This whole process was demotivating. 

I earnestly call upon the Hockey Board to do more to support our young athletes, the future sports leaders of Trinidad and Tobago.

I wish our young athletes the very best. We thank the coaches for believing in our athletes, and we know that this National Under-21 team will make Trinidad and Tobago proud.

Go, TnT Hockey Teams!

Photo: (From left) Naomi Sampson, Talia Seale, Mia Otero and Chelsea Dey prepare to defend a corner during Chile 2021 Pan Am U-21 international action against USA at the Prince of Wales Country Club, Santiago on 23 August 2021.
(Copyright Rodrigo Jaramillo/WorldSportpics)

Editor’s Note: The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s U-21 Hockey Team had 15 available players when they played their Pan Am opener against the United States on 23 August, as their four United States-based players—co-captain Felicia King and the Olton sisters, Samantha, Saarah, and Kaitlyn—were still in quarantine. They lost 15-0.

The Trinidad and Tobago Men’s U-21 Hockey team travelled to Chile with just 14 players, after six players tested positive for Covid-19 in Trinidad. They play their opening game against USA on 24 August.

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