SOUL AND SOLE
Yaneash Donaldson recently visited Jamaica, not to vacation but to spend time with close to 30 youth football enthusiasts, who, like many around the world, are hyped and excited about the ongoing Fifa World Cup in Qatar, hoping to one day make it on the big stage.
Donaldson, like her father and senior Reggae Girlz Head Coach Lorne Donaldson, has always been passionate about building bridges through football and providing opportunities for aspiring players to realise their true potential.
Such passion gave birth to her Soul and Sole programme, which is not only aimed at training and mentoring young talents but also exploring everything the game encompasses.
“Growing up playing football I realised that not everybody had the same opportunity, and football is a world’s game, but in the [United] States, in particular, you have to have money. As I was going through the college process I thought it would be nice if I knew how to go about the recruiting process,” Donaldson told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.
“I knew [a little about recruiting] because I got lucky because I was in a good club and my dad helped me along the way, and I had great coaches, but looking at some of my teammates, they had no idea how to go about getting recruited.
“So that’s where it [Soul and Sole] started. I always loved young people and so I wanted to have a programme where they have access to not only planning but they also understand that academics takes primary role in getting you to the next level and just in life if you want to go further.”
For Donaldson, who played for University of Clemson and Florida International University (FIU) before taking up coaching and teaching, the brief interaction with young players at Pembroke Hall High School proved valuable as she wants to help the future generation come to love the game and the opportunities it can provide.
The recent camp, which hosted both primary and secondary school students, was Donaldson’s second on Jamaican soil, the first, an all girls camp, was held in 2018.
“It’s very important because it’s a platform I feel that people like me have the opportunity to be out here and help these kids any way that I can. So, basically, it’s football training, tutoring, and then college guidance for athletes that want to play at the college level, so essentially mentorship,” said Donaldson, who was accompanied by former college teammate Elizabeth Durozel.
“I want to put together and do stuff that I love and am passionate about, so I’ve been teaching for 14 years and now I want to also combine both [football and academics]. Some of the things that I tried to nail home is just respect for themselves and others where ever they go and whatever environment they are in.”
With the turnout at the two camps demonstrating and reinforcing the need for initiatives like the Soul and Sole programme, Donaldson is encouraged to expand her footprints across the island.
This is also fuelled by her father’s advocacy over the years to see Jamaica’s football development being planted in its grass-roots programmes.
“The goal is to not just have it as a one-day thing,” Donaldson said.
“The first one I had to be calling people so I can get a feel of what I wanted to do with my programme, but now I get that partnering with organisations within the community and then expanding is the way to go.
“Organisations that has the players that are passionate and want to learn, because I want to work with all levels. So here [Pembroke Hall] was a little more strategic because I knew that if I worked with a school then having that base makes it a little easier to grow.
“So my hope is just to continue building, and essentially I was hoping to build out an online tutoring programme. So if we can start with the football, but also pool in the academic side to the point where even if I’m not here and we are having meetings via Zoom, we can always discuss workshops about what they need to do to get ready for college or have guest appearances.
“So just expanding their mind and making sure they know that the connections and relationships that you build through football are all the most important things.”