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A great disparity!

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter
Tuesday, July 17, 2012

TERMS such as "miracle workers" and "magicians" are being used to describe Jamaican football coaches after the return of local tacticians from a recent nine-day coaching course in Brazil.

Six of the local participants who addressed the Jamaica Observer's Monday Exchange of reporters and editors at the newspaper's offices yesterday admitted to being excited and awe-struck by the level of infrastructure in Brazil in the various facets of the sport.

The coaches, seemingly energised mentally and physically after their informative sojourn on the South American mainland, sought to describe the disparity between the infrastructural framework in football-mad Brazil and the frustratingly insufficient development here in Jamaica.

At the Traffic Football Academy in Porto Feliz, where the coaches were hosted, the travelling contingent said that there were five full standardised fields that would put some of the island's better playing surfaces to shame.

A visit to the youth arm of Sao Paulo FC created an even bigger "wow" effect, with that club having as many as 15 fields being shared by the different age group teams.

According to them, tremendous focus is put on the development of youngsters from various age groups, while coaches teach basic techniques such as controlling the ball, passing and shooting, as well as goalkeeping.

Vassel Reynolds, a technical committee member at Premier League outfit Sporting Central Academy, called for the more qualified coaches in Jamaica to be involved at the Under-14 level in a bid to limit cases where players entering the national set-up have to be taught the technical basics of the game.

"We need to develop a philosophy in terms of the persons we have coaching at the youth level. Sometimes some of the more inexperienced and unqualified coaches are the most willing to take up coaching at that level. It should be the better coaches guiding these youngsters.

"At the youth level we need to have people who are qualified and experienced. That's where it starts. Oftentimes you hear national coaches complaining that when the youths come to them at age 15-16 they have to be teaching them basics," he said, while adding that the nation has achieved a lot on the world stage, despite the limited resources.

Reynolds also lamented the massive pressure that is applied by parents, schools and other interested bodies in winning championship titles, and its consequent negative impact on youth development.

"Another thing is that at age 10-14 you shouldn't be too concerned about winning titles, but what you find is that there is so much pressure to win titles at the preparatory and primary level and it takes away from the developing of fundamental skills.

"That (development) would make the transition easier for children moving to Under-17 level," the tactician said.

Andrew Price, who guided Boys' Town FC to second-place finishes in the previous two seasons of top-tier club football, noted the over-reliance on high schools in nurturing young talent.

"Here in Jamaica we mostly depend on the daCosta Cup and the Manning Cup (competitions) and the various junior leagues to provide players. In Brazil, if you are talented you register with an academy or a club and then if you are good enough you matriculate through the various levels until you become a professional.

"They don't concentrate on schools to supply the players. Their feeling is that school is where you go to get yourself educated. They get the talented ones into the academies, but ensure a holistic development where the children go to school.

"However, at the academies they concentrate on playing football," said the Boys' Town technical director.

Price charged that lack of sponsorship and funding is a major hindrance to clubs which have realised that investing in youth programmes can bring about rewards on and off the football pitch.

"The development of youngsters should be either at the clubs or at the academies. We don't have any academies of such in Jamaica, so what we are talking about is the clubs dealing with development. That means to get all the age groups — Under-13, Under-15, Under-17 and Under-20 — and they matriculate throughout, until they become professionals or semi-professionals.

"Not many clubs have that in place, and for that kind of infrastructure the clubs would need sponsorship where they can afford to deal with those situations. It's a worthwhile investment because these players can be sold at a good profit," he said.

The other four coaches who gave their experiences yesterday were Andrew Edwards (national Under-20 assistant coach), Marcel Gayle (Waterhouse FC), Alvin Shaw (Tivoli Gardens FC), and Harold Thomas (Harbour View FC).

The course in Brazil was conducted by Traffic on behalf of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the Premier League Clubs Association (PLCA) and exposed coaches to lecture sessions, tactical, psychological, practical and theoretical lessons, as well as evaluation meetings.

While coaches were responsible for their airfare, JFF's chairman of the Technical and Development Committee Howard McIntosh said that an estimated $4 million was paid by the local federation to cover accommodation and other expenses.

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