Senior Reggae Girlz Head Coach Lorne Donaldson believes the opportunity for holistic football development in Jamaica still very much exists, but, at the same time, he is reiterating that it will take planning to move the sport forward.
Though aware that a lack of resources — funding in particular — has hindered the growth of Jamaica's football for years, Donaldson is of the view that proper groundwork and vision for the sport's development have been non-existent, and, if there was ever something to work with, decisive execution had been woefully lacking.
While he agrees that the onus is on the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) to craft sustainable strategies for growth and development, Donaldson argued that every Jamaican — home and abroad — and more importantly, corporate Jamaica, has some part to play in finding the winning formula.
"It is no secret that our football is suffering from limited resources to effectively develop the sport, and someone said it before, that money holds the key to achieving growth. So we can't just sit around and say we are waiting on the JFF. We all have a part to play in getting the country's football on the right path whether by investing time, knowledge, energy or money and so we have to come together and get it done," Donaldson told the Jamaica Observer from his base in Colorado, United States.
That said, Donaldson pointed out that the partnership with global sportswear giant adidas — which is expected to support development efforts — represents a solid launching pad to revamp Jamaica's football. This, he said, leaves the ball in the JFF's court to put the right personnel in place to formulate strategies and capitalise on the benefits of the deal in building for the long term.
"What can happen right now is that if we get the coaches on contracts up until the Olympic (qualifier against Canada in September next year) we can put some stuff in place where we can achieve more. And I am not just talking about the senior Reggae Girlz, I'm talking about from the Under-15s up because you saw what happened the other day," Donaldson said.
He was making reference to the Under-15 Girlz dismal campaign at the developmental Concacaf Championship recently during which they suffered 0-5, 0-11 and 2-4 defeats to Canada, United States and Puerto Rico, respectively.
"That again was because of a lack of preparation and lack of planning, so we have to now sit back and say how do we want to do this? Do we want to reshape everything when we get to Under-20 or do we want to build from the grass roots up?
"With adidas coming in I think that's a massive improvement because this brand is one that is about the best, so they are going to show up and say let's get it done properly," Donaldson noted.
"So if we can get a good staff, not just for the Reggae Girlz, but across the board, because we have some bright people coaching all over the world and if we can get all those coaches to sit down and say let's put this together once and for all and just move, then we can get it done. And with adidas's help we could see the best for Jamaica's football, but it has to be from the bottom up or from the top down," he added.
Pointing to the senior Reggae Girlz's success over the past few years, Donaldson said it had taken more than mere talk to lift the country's female players from lack of funding and the lows of a six-year dormancy to the highs of World Cup qualification for the 2019 and 2023 editions.
Instead, he stressed that it took sincere devotion and execution from himself, and fellow coaches Hue Menzies, Andrew Price, Xavier Gilbert, Hubert Busby and others, along with the unwavering belief and financial backing of global women's football Ambassador Cedella Marley.
Jamaica's Reggae Girlz have consistently topped the Caribbean and been highly competitive within Concacaf at various levels, including at the Under-17 and Under-20 age groups, since Marley took on the roll as ambassador in 2014.
As such, a sore point for Donaldson is that the Girlz continue to play second fiddle to their Reggae Boyz counterparts by way of resource allocation.
"It can't be that we focus on one and ignore the other. It has to be a holistic approach in developing both genders. Every time I hear people talk about football in Jamaica it's about one gender and the gender that is getting the result right now is not the one getting most of the attention," the former national player stated.
In that vein, Donaldson, though pleased with the Girlz achieving Jamaica women's highest-ever ranking at 42, said it means very little on a broader scale without sustainable growth.
"It is good for the country to move up and good for respectability, but for me it doesn't mean anything if the right investment is not going into the programme to sustain it. Because you can rank as high as possible and a team below you that's getting the right support can come knock you off at anytime. So it's good to say we are making progress in terms of climbing the ladder but again it means very little without the right support," he told the Observer.