NextPlay, true to its purpose, braces for exciting future
Concacaf’s iconic grass roots programme NextPlay has been impacting the lives of the kids who are its heartbeat.
Interestingly, too, it has had far-reaching and life-changing effects on the adults who have been associated with it in one capacity or another.
The activation that is fuelled in the main by a spirit of creating access to the sport by primary school- aged children and to enforce an agenda of social change through football, has transformed into a wider net in purpose and accomplishment.
As NextPlay moves into a new dimension, its chief protagonist Jason Roberts is excited at the prospects as much as the kiddies that had a kickabout at Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence in another phase of the programme’s academy component on Saturday.
“I think we have a huge opportunity at Concacaf working with our partners, JFF, the government, [and] the schools to place the participation of football and the important lessons that are learnt central to what we do, as we promote an agenda here for football for social change.
“I think it is an opportunity to work with young people who may or may not go on to be huge stars, but take their participation of football and sort of use that as learning blocks [for] how they become better people, how they treat other people, how they value themselves, how they respect their communities; how they respect themselves, their school and authority — and I think that is an important message,” said the confederation’s director of development.
With NextPlay poised to enter a new and exciting realm of possibilities, Roberts admits that priceless lessons have been learnt, plus invaluable partnerships and working bonds have been formed as the move forward.
“I think what’s clear is that we can partner with governments, we can partner with our member associations, in this case, the JFF, we can partner with University of Technology, where I just came from, having partnered with them and JMMB to ensure that we have safeguarding as a curriculum, which is spread across 800 coaches, so I think it’s more than NextPlay, but more about how we place the football for social change agenda, and how we make it a part of our curricula and our competitions.
“The NextPlay platform is part of our Gold Cup as well and we will be running it at Gold Cup games and here in Jamaica at the venue. so you see the collaboration with Curacao and El Salvador sending players here today (Saturda), so I think it is exciting times for us,” said Roberts in his usual eloquent style.
The former Blackburn Rovers regular says going forward, Concacaf intends to utilise all its assets in expanding NextPlay into the future and reinforcing it as pillar of the growth and development agenda.
“The next stage for us is to continue to partner and to spread this message far and wide, and I think we have a huge reach at Concacaf and it goes over and above the programmes we are running at the moment; but the programmes we are running at the moment serve to show what we can do,” Roberts ended.
The USA-born El Salvador midfielder Gerson Mayen, who participated with the kids at Saturday’s activities, urged the starry-eyed youth to make the best of the opportunity and to stay on the proverbial straight and narrow.
“it was nice being here and taking part, because I understand that some of the kids here are from a rough part of Jamaica and for them to be here is important because sometimes kids will go the wrong path — but by being here they are showing that they are interested in football.
“I grew up in the hard part of south-central LA (Los Angeles) and I did not have the opportunity that these kids have, and I would have liked to have that opportunity… as a kid I wanted to be a soccer player and I did not have this opportunity, so I would encourage these kids not to take this chance for granted because they never know what life can bring; and I would just encourage them to listen to their parents and do the right things,” he told the Observer.
Curacao winger Gino van Kessel said he was hnoured to be able to participate with the kids in the sessions, which involved inspirational talks, sharing of experiences, and crash courses in techniques.
“It is always important to have these clinics for the kids, and it is great that we can be here with them as they look up to us as professional players, and who have made it to the national team.
“From I was a kid I wanted to be a professional player, and I let them (NextPlay kids) know that I gave up a lot of things to focus on my football. so I let them know that sacrifice is important, and used myself as an example that hard work pays off. I also told them that if you believe in something go after it,” said van Kessel.
Both players will be on opposing teams in the Group C Concacaf Gold Cup curtain-raiser at National Stadium today at 6:00 pm.
In the feature match, hosts Jamaica take on Honduras at 8:00 pm.