SPORTS coaches are predicting it will be a long road back for T&T junior athletes to fulfil their potential again, and the public should curb expectations after two years of pandemic inactivity.
Sports in T&T finally got the green light to resume at all levels in late January – national athletes, club level and those just eager for a “sweat.”
From March 2020 to January 2022, only national teams and athletes training for international competition were granted public health exemptions
Young athletes in T&T felt the brunt of the pandemic as no sports were played at school level.
Over the last two months, many national teams have represented T&T at regional level with less-than-ideal preparation.
The Under-17 women’s football team just competed at the Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championships in Dominican Republic.
Before their last match against Mexico on Wednesday, T&T head coach Jason Spence spoke about the lack of programmes in place locally.
T&T did not make it past the group stage losing to Panama 5-1, Nicaragua 4-0 and Mexico 10-0.
T&T were on the back foot for the majority of those matches as the other teams dominated possession and were not shy to shoot from outside the 18-yard box.
Panama attempted 32 shots compared to T&T’s one effort on goal and in that match T&T only had 26 per cent possession.
Against Nicaragua, T&T were outshot 32-8 in a match where they had 38 per cent possession.
The Mexicans were also dominant getting 33 shots compared to one by T&T. In terms of possession, T&T had 21 per cent possession.
Prior to the Under-17 tournament, the T&T Under-20 women had a tough outing at the Concacaf Under-20 Championships in the Dominican Republic, which took place from February 25-March 12.
Spence was also at the helm of the T&T Under-20 squad. T&T suffered defeats to El Salvador (3-0), St Kitts/Nevis (7-2) and Canada (5-0).
Ex-Strike Squad defender and former T&T men’s Under-20 coach Brian Williams said the public should not be too harsh on the performance of the teams.
“We need to understand what is taking place and don’t make those kind of derogatory statements about the girls…but understanding the situation for the girls performance (is critical).”
Williams said no competitive environment is in place. “They don’t have a functioning women’s league in T&T for the girls to play and I understand when you have to take people who are not playing in a competitive league for the longest while and try to put them in a team, it is really difficult.
“We hardly have a real women’s competition in T&T, so the girls could really have true representation.”
The Fifa-appointed normalisation committee is now running local football and Williams said this is also preventing stakeholders from getting more involved in decision making.
“If the TTFA is made up of six or seven arms, then those six or seven arms should be functional and should have representation on the board of the TTFA so we can go forward.”
Long-standing youth cricket administrator Glen Dwarika also gave his thoughts on the topic. Dwarika, who led national youth cricket teams to titles in the past, is the chairman of selectors for the national Under-15 cricket team.
Dwarika said youngsters in T&T may take awhile to regain their competitiveness.
“It will be a pretty long time,” Dwarika said.
He said restructuring must take place at youth level to see a higher standard of play.
“The foundation needs to be started at the primary school…whether it be cricket, football or athletics you would not be able to churn out the quality players.”
Dwarika said children at primary school don’t play outside as much as previously.
He said athletes must also take personal responsibility to maintain their fitness.
“If you are a sportsman or sportswoman, in terms of your individual fitness you supposed to be spending enough time with your physical performance."
He said there is so much information available on the internet that athletes can tap into to help them.
He said children years ago were fitter and ate healthier foods.
“The environment was the natural gym where children used to walk at least two miles to get to school, that is not happening again…poor eating habits (is an issue). We grew up on fruits…all these are major factors that will contribute to the physical development.”
Trinidad and Tobago U-17 skipper stays positive after dismal campaign.
By Joel Bailey (T&T Newsday).
MARLEY WALKER, captain of the Trinidad and Tobago Under-17 women’s football team, hopes that the team can stay together, in the aftermath of their dismal showing at the Concacaf Under-17 Women’s Championships in the Dominican Republic.
The Jason Spence-coached under-17s only scored once in three games, while leaking 19 goals. They have struggled to maintain possession of the ball and this has been compounded by a porous defence. In three games, T&T have allowed 97 shots at goal while managing just ten strikes against their rivals.
The T&T team were humiliated 10-0 by Mexico in their final Group E encounter on Wednesday. On Sunday, TT were beaten 5-1 by Panama, and followed up that defeat with a 4-0 spanking from Nicaragua on Monday.
Walker, the daughter of a Trinidadian father and an American mother, said the Mexico game did not go as planned. “Credit to Mexico, they were very strong opponents to play against," Walker said.
"We're a new team, we just have to keep pushing together and (staying) together. It’s been a good experience for all of us. (For) a lot of us, it’s our first international experience so I think it was great to get out here and just work together as a team. We’ve come together in such a short time frame so it was a fun experience.”
This tournament continued a poor start, for 2022, for the T&T youth women programme.
Spence was also at the helm of the T&T Under-20 squad, during the Concacaf Under-20 Championships in the Dominican Republic, which took place from February 25 to March 12.
In Group F, T&T finished bottom of the four-team standings, after defeats to El Salvador (3-0), St Kitts/Nevis (7-2) and Canada (5-0).
On Tuesday, in an interview on the TT Football Association (TTFA) website, Spence expressed hope in the future of the T&T women teams, especially the Under-17 outfit.
“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 two to four years,” he said. “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."