‘We have let them down’
Local coaches say they have failed to fully prepare players for new roles abroad
In recent years, local players have found it difficult to hold down professional contracts when they move to leagues overseas. While some argue that the players need to be tougher mentally, the majority of local coaches feel that they are the ones who have failed to fully prepare the players for their new roles.Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) technical committee chairman and Cavalier sporting director Rudolph Speid, Portmore United’s coach Phillip Williams, and football agent Damani Ralph all believe the system of development locally has not served the players well for their sojourns overseas.
“I just believe we have let them down. We didn’t prepare them properly for them to survive professionally,” Speid told The Gleaner.
“Our players are talented. It is just that other things are needed.”
Although he believes that the world is much different from 10 years ago and players are not as focused as those in the past, Speid stated that coaches never instilled the discipline and understanding required for professionals football.
“So we should take the blame and try to build better athletes so when they go abroad, they learn from those mistakes.”
Speid said coaches and managers of local players should ensure that players have a minimum level of discipline and avoid a free for all.
Two of the country’s brightest prospects in the last five years, Alex Marshall and Lamar Walker, recently returned to Portmore United after failing to secure extensions on their first contracts overseas.
Since their return, the two former schoolboy stars have faced their share of criticism, but Portmore coach Williams said persons are being unfair and that some critics are quick to judge without knowing the facts.
He pointed out that the players are between contracts and have made the decision to return home until they find a new club.
He also thinks it is positive having top-quality players in the league.
“Lamar and Alex are between contracts. They are playing to keep in shape. If anything comes up, the clause is there for them to move right away.
“But why sit and wait when you could be playing football at the highest level in your country,” he said.
“Yes, they are lacking some things, but infrastructure is definitely needed in order for us to have products that when they go out they are fully ready technically, tactically and mentally.”
However, former national player and Vere coach Linval Dixon, who won the A-League (USL) Championship in 2003, said maybe the players are not giving enough.
He said that overseas professional football is totally different from local football and that coaches there prefer hard workers and our players are not usually accustomed to this amount of workload.
However, he believes with a tough mentality and the right attitude, local players can overcome this barrier.
“It boils down to attitude, frame of mind, and doing the hard work we need to do to make it.
“Even when you don’t feel like it you go and do extra work to get mentally and physically ready. That is what it takes, and if you are not going that route, we are always going to be in trouble,” he said.
“Previous, present, and past (pro) players will tell you there is no substitute for hard work.
“So all I can tell players is to continue working really hard and you will be rewarded.”
Meanwhile, Ralph pointed out that the reasons why local players are unsuccessful in their overseas stints are many and that some factors are beyond their control.
He noted that the game has become more global, and the talent pool has widened immensely. Local players have to compete for fewer spots.
However, he said a lot more can be done locally to make players better prepared for the professional game.
“Based on feedback I have received, there is a lack of tactical development and an inability to sustain high-intensity training.
“Speed of play is quicker, much faster and more technical, and the brain is unable to keep up.
“That is where our players are lagging behind, and this is mainly due to the lack of infrastructure.”
However, he thinks it is a fixable problem and that with the JFF’s support and greater human and financial resources, coaches can be equipped with the knowledge to educate young players and make them better prepared for the professional market.
“From a JFF standpoint, how best can they support the local clubs and help improve the tactical education that our kids get from a young age?
“Once the foundation is solid, the transition and adaptation will get better. But if the foundations is not set, then we will be moving backwards,” Ralph said.