Tue | Jan 31, 2023

COVID-19 had severe impact on youth teams – JFF report

Published:Monday | November 28, 2022 | 12:09 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Shaneil Buckley (right) celebrates with teammate Natoya Atkinson after scoring against Cuba in the Round of 16 of the Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship in May. Jamaica won 4-0. The match was played at the Olimpico Felix Sanchez Stadium in Santo Domi
Shaneil Buckley (right) celebrates with teammate Natoya Atkinson after scoring against Cuba in the Round of 16 of the Concacaf Women’s Under-17 Championship in May. Jamaica won 4-0. The match was played at the Olimpico Felix Sanchez Stadium in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
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The recently released 2021 Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) technical report has lamented the severe impact the coronavirus pandemic had on national youth teams preparing for international competitions. According to the report, which was presented...

The recently released 2021 Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) technical report has lamented the severe impact the coronavirus pandemic had on national youth teams preparing for international competitions.

According to the report, which was presented at the 2022 JFF congress, the national under-14 girls and under-15 boys squads were only afforded very limited preparation due to the restrictions placed on sporting activities by the government during 2020 and 2021.

“The few sessions held with the girls restricted the selection process for the tour. It was a tremendous experience for the young ladies since they were competing for the first time at the international level,” the reported added.

However, it noted that a high percentage of the players demonstrated the capacity to make the transition to the under-15 and under-17 teams.”

Despite facing similar circumstances, it said that the under-15 boys, also in their first international tournament, gained invaluable experience.

“They were very competitive for all the matches. However, the lack of preparation prevented them from finishing the matches strongly.

“We were further handicapped because four players tested positive for COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic, hence, we had limited number during the tournament.

“Despite the adversities, the boys’ performance was inspiring, and a high percentage are expected to make the transition to the under-17 team,” it read.

JFF technical committee chairman Rudolph Speid said the JFF has taken many lessons from 2021 and is putting programmes and systems in place to ensure consistent qualification to future global tournaments.

He revealed that they are targeting the Under-17 World Cup in 2025, and the federation is planning a sustained two-year programme that will include the majority of the last under-15 squad

“This Under-17 World Cup coming up next year (in Peru), we will not be that prepared for it. But for the next one (2025), we will be prepared.

“We are definitely changing gears a little and have beefed up all of the youth teams’ coaching staff down to the under-15s.

“We are getting some experience, and we are definitely looking at the 2025 Under-17 World Cup as a project and see if we can qualify. We are going to make a big two-year sustained effort,” he said.

John Wall, the senior team assistant, is in charge of the under-20s, which has been outfitted with a fully professional back-room staff.

The under-17s, who will be coached by Merron Gordon, will have a fully dedicated staff by next year.

“For the under-17 qualifiers, a coach will be in place from next year, and that will be his full-time job. We will have a manager, and that will be his full-time job,” Speid said.

He added that having the two senior team assistants as the coaches of the two main youth teams will make it easier to implement the senior-team system within these teams as well as aid young players’ transition.

“It will be easier for them to apply the system as well as identify talent for the senior programme. We have looked, learned, and have developed, and we have made a lot of strides (in 2022).”

He added that they will embark on a talent-identification programme soon, which will be funded by FIFA.

“We will have a course to train people for this.

We want to ensure we do not leave any talent behind. In December, we will have three trials across the USA, and we have a grass-roots programme which should begin in January.

“So we are gearing up, and you may not see the fruits immediately or at one time as it will take time,” Speid said.

livingston.scott@gleanerjm.com