Kudos to NextPlay Cup and its transformative potential

Saturday, December 15, 2018

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Conventional wisdom teaches that a poorly reinforced foundation will ultimately lead to a fragile upper structure.

That is why we have and will continue to argue in favour of those individuals who believe and act in nurturing talent in all spheres of life, starting at the grass-roots level.

In sport, in particular, we have seen where sustained success has only come when a programme targeting the base is at the heart and soul of the growth and developmental process.

So when we got word that a region-wide football tournament for primary school boys and girls was coming, we were uncontrollably excited.

The new Scotiabank Concacaf NextPlay Cup — a grass-roots activation executed in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, and Barbados — is a welcome addition to the movement to develop the game, especially at that crucial 10 to 11 age group.

Scotiabank, a major partner of Concacaf and a full-service financial institution with a strong presence in the Caribbean, has once again put its money where its mouth is.

The Canada-based bank has for years partnered with Cricket West Indies in executing Scotiabank's Kiddy Cricket Programme, which has been credited with launching the careers of numerous players, some of whom have gone on to represent the West Indies at various levels.

The NextPlay Cup, we hope, will self-actualise in a similar way over time.

Like Kiddy Cricket, NextPlay, as we are told, is not only taking aim at giving the children access to the game and investing in the next generation, but to impact further their lives by teaching important social and life skills.

“It is a great feeling to see the youngsters having fun, especially at this age, and they are getting a great opportunity, and once you get opportunities, the sky is the limit,” Concacaf's football ambassador, Jamaican Mr Ricardo Gardner, was quoted in this week's Sunday Observer.

“It is great to see what Concacaf and Scotiabank are doing for the youngsters and it is good for them to learn life principles from now which will help them grow into super stars of tomorrow,” he added.

We couldn't have said it better.

Scotiabank's Regional Director of Public and Corporate Affairs Mrs Yanique Forbes Patrick was on the ball, scoring with this gem: “Sports is a very good vehicle to teach communications and teamwork, and to teach the kids to win and lose graciously… and to teach them sportsmanship as those are very important life skills.”

Her views summed it up beautifully.

After four weekends of competition, which started on November 10 with 52 primary schools across the island, Holy Family Primary emerged champions of the Jamaica leg of the inaugural tournament.

The school, which is located in the tough Central Kingston community of Southside, defeated Emmanuel Christian Academy 2-1 in the final at Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex last Saturday to lift a magnificent trophy.

As part of their prize, the Holy Family team will be flown, all expenses paid, to watch the Scotiabank Concacaf Gold Cup final in Chicago next July. This could be a massive life-changing moment for these kids.

As we salute their victory, more importantly, we tip the proverbial hat to the boys and girls of Holy Family for their exemplary conduct and exhibition of good sportsmanship throughout the tournament.

They were a shining example for the community and living testimony to the purpose and goal of not only the NextPlay Cup, but the NextPlay Programme in general.

In the three other territories where NextPlay was launched, the feedback has been similar to the Jamaican experience, which speaks crucially to its infectious qualities and transformative potential.

Importantly, too, Caribbean societies and their football, in the long run, will no doubt reap the rewards of this innovation as it becomes ingrained in the Caribbean sporting experience. We can hardly wait for the day.

Concacaf and Scotiabank have found a winner with NextPlay. And we love and support winners.

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