Boyz need more than speed, say experts
LEGENDARY track and field coach Glen Mills says while Jamaica's footballers are naturally athletic, other elements are needed for them to outpace the competition.
The Reggae Boyz meet Guatemala in a Concacaf World Cup Qualifier in Guatemala City this evening after beating the Central Americans, 2-1, in the first leg in Kingston.
While questions have been raised about the players being able to keep pace with other top-rated teams, Mills says that raw speed is not necessarily the issue.
"The footballers' problem is not athleticism. They need to learn the game and learn the skill. Athletic-wise they are fairly agile. They are strong but the finer points of team play and the whole concept of football has not reached us yet," he told the Jamaica Observer.
The Racers Track Club head coach who conditions the world-beating duo of Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake said he was once approached by a head coach for a potential position that did not pan out as he is already over-stretched.
Meanwhile, Harbour View FC president Clyde Jureidini said in today's football, having great speed is only part of a bigger picture.
"It's not just how fast; it's if we can do that under adverse conditions. The name of the game is speed and the best teams are those teams that can execute at speed," he explained.
"We're naturally athletic and we're as fast, or faster, than many of the teams worldwide, which is why all of our competitors see us as fast.
"The 'element of speed and talent' is how they've framed it and is a threat to all our competitors. That is highly respected worldwide," said Jureidini.
"Fast in football is a composite of many things: athleticism — how well you can do that with the ball, and with timing, good sense, vision and co-ordination with the person or persons on my (your) team.
"It's those things that separate an average footballer from a good or an excellent footballer," he added.
FIFA coaching instructor Jan Poulsen, a former youth team coach of Tanzania, Denmark, and Singapore who was in Jamaica a few months ago conducting coaching clinics, also highlighted the importance of teaching technical skills at an early age.
"Why have you only made it to the World Cup (in 1998)? Maybe because the feeder line was not very well established or is not established," Poulsen posited.
"I worked with some of the youths that we have in this course and they lacked some technical ability, some tactical understanding, and because you have speed in Jamaica, your physical strength is there. You are a sporting nation in the right sports so if you can get the other things into the development of the players, you will go far, I think."
Jureidini agreed: "We're naturally athletic and fast and gifted; it's to get the combined elements attached to those natural skills that we haven't done as well as we can the co-ordinative team work."
Mills noted that being athletic is not the only factor if one does not maintain a lifestyle conducive to sports.
"Fitness is not a feature of running and exercise. Nutrition and lifestyle has a lot to do with it. No matter how much you run, if you smoke and you drink and your body doesn't get enough nutrition you cannot run for 90 minutes. That alone can't cut it. That is only 50 per cent," he argued.
He added that his athletes undergo an executive medical examination before they start training to ensure their bodies can perform at the optimum level.
"How much of them (footballers) do an executive check up? A lot of them are probably full of parasites and worms. We (Racers) do it and you'd be amazed at the little things that show up. They are not life-threatening, but it affects the efficiency," Mills explained.
Poulsen said a lot of resources have been put in the team but the team is only as good as the individual players.
"...If the player has not been well educated, has not learned the right technique, tactical understanding, then of course you will not have good national team players," he said.