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Spence: TTFA restarted Women’s U-17 programme too late, but ‘this group of players is special’

“[…] This group of players is special and I firmly believe that this is the group who will bring smiles back to our faces in youth women’s football in the next 2-4 years.

“[…] While the world faced the pandemic and we lost 2 years in T&T, a lot of the other countries restarted their programs over 14-16 months ago while we really only started at the beginning of the year [three months ago]—that has definitely shown up a lot in our level…”

The following is an interview conducted by the TTFA Media with Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Under-17 Team head coach Jason Spence:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago coach Jason Spence temporarily takes hold of the ball during Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship action against Nicaragua in Santo Domingo on 25 April 2022.
(via Concacaf)

TTFA Media: How would you sum up the two matches so far?

Jason Spence: The first two games have allowed us to really assess and measure what level our female youth football is at the moment. Definitely right now we need to focus on inserting ourselves as a top team in the Caribbean and then move on to the Concacaf level.

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TTFA Media: You opted to make a few changes to the starting team for the second match. Can you explain the reason based on what you observed in the first match?

Spence: The changes were primarily made as a result of injuries which were sustained in the game against Panama. I am guided by my medical team and would do what is best for the health of the players. Some were ruled out entirely and some were advised to only play a certain amount of minutes.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago players pose before kickoff against Nicaragua in a Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship fixture in Santo Domingo on 25 April 2022.
(Copyright Concacaf)

TTFA Media: What are you hoping for going into the third game vs Mexico?

Spence: We are definitely hoping for a more resilient performance. We have discussed it at our session this morning and made a couple adjustments, we will certainly be doing our best as we take the field to represent our country.

TTFA Media: What have you discovered thus far about our team and the possible gap that exists?

Spence: A lot has been observed this far. Of which I can write an essay. However to summarise:
Our players are very enthusiastic and want to learn and do well. This tournament has allowed them to experience what is required physically, technically and tactically at the international level.

I must mention that this group of players is special and I firmly believe that this is the group who will bring smiles back to our faces in youth women’s football in the next 2-4 years. They have big hearts and really want to do well. This though would require keeping the team together in training consistently year-round. They need stability.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago attacker Trishell Charles (right) tries to win possession from a Nicaragua opponent during Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship action in Santo Domingo on 25 April 2022.
(via Concacaf)

This group of players came from a core group born out of the NLCB elite program in 2017 which played under Coach Marlon Charles in the 2019 tournament at home. They need to stay together after this tournament in training and developing. A good start would be for the team to play in the upcoming WoLF tournament.

Finally, while we are in these tournaments I make it my business to have conversations with the staff of the other teams. For me it is important to find out what they are doing so I can properly understand their advancement. In summary it’s all about consistent year-round programmes.

While the world faced the pandemic and we lost 2 years in T&T, a lot of the other countries restarted their programs over 14-16 months ago while we really only started at the beginning of the year [three months ago]—that has definitely shown up a lot in our level. While the current chronological age of our players are 15/16, their development stopped at ages 13/14.

For us the coaching staff who are working with the players, we have seen them learn and grow in the past three months. However three months versus 12-14 months is a huge difference for preparation.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago left back Emily Nanton (left) tries to hold off Nicaragua attacker Adriana Munguia during Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship action in Santo Domingo on 25 April 2022.
(via Concacaf)

The good thing is in the composition of our current team at the tournament, we have eight players who are 15 years old, and back home we have 10 players who are 13/14. This augurs well for youth women football.

Looking ahead, we will have the same players working together for the next four years—two more U17s and two more U20 tournaments.

As I conclude, I implore T&T to keep rallying around the team and give them the positive support they need and deserve.

Editor’s Note: Trinidad and Tobago are bottom of Group E after losing 5-1 to Panama and 4-0 to Nicaragua. The young Women Soca Warriors have allowed 27 shots on target (and 69 in total) while managing two shots on target themselves after 180 minutes.

Trinidad and Tobago conclude their participation in the 2022 Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship on Wednesday 27 April when they face Mexico from 9pm in Santo Domingo.

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3 comments

  1. The players didn’t choose themselves and maybe there is some measure of talent in the team. From the evidence of the on-field play and basic skill level on this display, that was not the case.
    One thing holds true and is guaranteed, which is that if you fail to properly prepare, failure is guaranteed. We continue to put our young people in situations we know they are not equipped to handle rather than spend time formulating and implementing development programs that will at least give them a fighting chance in these tournaments.
    The team was simply thrown in the deep end and that is really unfortunate.

  2. In this interview, Spence ran very fast and stayed in the very same place when it was over.
    I have not watched the games but I get the distinct impression that his teams do pretty much the same thing in their matches.
    But I stand to be corrected—if there is anybody still willing to speak up after the game against Mexico tomorrow.

    • Lasana Liburd

      Nobody ever seems to be at fault. It is bad luck/Covid. So everyone gets to keep their jobs and rub each other’s backs. I’ve seen this movie before.
      Why was the team not prepared properly? The Ministry of Sport allowed national teams to resume training since June 2020, after a lockdown of barely three months.