Crux of the Matter with Junior Football
Our Under 17 Boys National team failed to win a match in the recent CFU Football Tournament. This in itself is not a disgrace. But the matter has to be looked at in straight systematic manner. The question has to be asked: should we have done better? Importantly, are we in a position to have acquitted ourselves better? If not, why? Then, have we been having a suitable grasp on the football situation as far as the development of Junior players is concerned? My view is we are not fully alive as to where we are with our standards and do not know where the road is to allow us to pinpoint an upward trajectory for national team development.
It is important to understand fully the Dominica context within the scale of availability of human material. We need to get away from the imprisoning mentality that is misguiding us into believing our teams begin a match as equal with the opposition purely on the strength of the logic which says each team has eleven players on the field of play. A parity of this kind is utterly misleading – and with a little thought exposes a number of absurdities.
When a Dominica youth team squares up against its counterparts from Barbados or Trinidad, and the Bajans or Trinidadians win by five goals to two, we can- jump to a number of conclusions, some of which may be entirely void of clear sightedness. I believe in arriving at a proper statement of the relevant premise. The first is a look at the numerical situation in support of the Bajan or Trinidadian team origins vis à vis that of Dominica. It is no business of the Bajan or Trinidadians if we point out they may have a few hundred youth teams from which to select their national squad, unlike Dominica who may have as many as fifty youth teams. However, there are consequences for us if we fail to understand where we are and position ourselves to deal with the disparities with which we are faced.
Nothing I have said in the foregoing should introduce an element of an inferiority complex. On the contrary, it is a statement of knowledge to the extent that if you are fully aware of your starting point you may better determine your methods of approach towards player and team development. In other words, first know what you have at your disposal and then set out to work to acquire what is needed to meet your strategic development thrust suitable to your situation.
Barbados and Trinidad may rely on their bountiful source of very many teams, each of which provides a player or two of relative individual excellence. Their's one of skimming the cream from a large vat. Ours is always going to be a small vat. What then has to be our related issues – if we seek to address the pretty real differential? A sane answer has to be thoroughness in how we devise our system of development. If we get a grip on the structure of our youth football right at the areas of inception and taking this all the way to the top, we can install the needed foundations to success, and accordingly lose the overextension of endurance in making excuses for failure.
There is the oft repeated saying: "failure to plan is planning to fail". In this regard we have to enshrine our approach to planning by securing it to the very beginnings of our football development. Contrary to the wasteful philosophy of providing a group of youngsters with a ball, with sheer enjoyment as the essential feature, and hoping somehow the outcome will be the emergence of a quality team, or at least some decent players, is an extreme case which is doomed to be fruitful only in frustration – if playing excellence is the wishful goal.
If, as is likely to be the case, we cannot have each of our primary schools duly lifted via a solid programme of development, it is essential to adopt a few schools exhibiting a useful disposition to coachableness and endeavour to move them forward making them a spearhead and exemplary ideal for others to follow. This would not be elitism carried to excess. It is one way of making the very best of a situation which is very far from ideal – cutting our cloth to tailor our suit.
My very free advice hinges to the obvious requirement for national youth squads to be formulated on age group starting at Under Eight and extending through Under Twelve, Under Fifteen, then to the Under Seventeen. Without this, we are merely groping in the dark. Even then, it must not be a matter of having a token effort - just to say we have something. Whatever we put in place must be sound, positive and consistent from year to year and month to month and week to week.
In summing up, I would emphasize that the burden of this article would presuppose much fuller in-depth analysis of football development as it pertains to an adequate movement forward. It does not exclude exhaustive weighing of what we have by way of all material – human resource structures along with assumed technical attainments. Above all, whatever we attempt has to be driven by desire to be thorough and willingness to be cumulatively geared towards sustained success for our youth football at the regional level. We have not been doing this. When we do, there is no doubt we will fulfill the capacity to make a reversing of the adverse scores we suffered in CFU and elsewhere a solid reality. This is not wishful thinking – not if thoroughness becomes our watchword! The dream must be backed by resolve and muscle, but the path must be clearly marked.