By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
The future of any sport lies in its youth. And more 100 of the top Under 15 boys and girls from primary and high schools across the territory, are honing their Football skills in the Digicel Center of Excellence.
On Saturday mornings 38 boys head to the Millicent Mercer Grounds in Baughers Bay; 35 Girls to Althea Scatliffe Primary School Grounds and 30 boys and girls converge on the Valley Recreation Grounds Virgin Gorda. Morris Mark runs the girls program at Scatliffe Grounds while on Virgin Gorda, Thomas Albert heads the program with assistance from Richie Morton, Timon Robinson and Glen Bascombe.
“This is a breeding ground for the future,” said Cassandra “Cass” Gregg, who is responsible for U9-U13 players and coaches in Baughers Bay along with BVIFA Youth Development Officer Avondale “Avon” Williams. “In the next five years, we should have a good Under 21 team at least. We went to St. Martin with a U13 team and came up against the best from Martinique, French St. Martin and Guadeloupe and we didn’t loose a game—only on penalties to get to the final. Once we keep these guys together—we have them on Mondays and Wednesdays and they are in the Digicel Center of Excellence—we will have a good team and in the next 10 years, possibly one of the best national teams in the Caribbean.”
Gregg said they look for the elite players from leagues held by the BVI Football Association during the first school term and invite them to try out. “We had a game one Saturday and had over 60 kids and we tried to get them to earn a spot in the Digicel Center of Excellence and some players got dropped,” she explained. “I know some parents didn’t like it but you had to prove a point here. It’s not because you are good, we’re going to pick you—you have to come out and earn your spot.”
Williams, who is responsible for the U13-U15 Boys, said they are seeing all the young players coming through the program to help fulfill the national duties plan, while helping them develop their skills, helping them with life skills, discipline and motivation.
“We are seeing quite a good number of players coming through and we have a young promising goal keeper Sonji McCall coming through and this is an area our country basically lacks at the moment,” he noted. “We have a number of seven and nine year olds who we are trying to categorize in different national age groups so we can start making the steps of U9, U11, U13s right up to the seniors. Basically, we can look forward for them to start filling the gaps.”
They have been working with players on controlling and passing as most have a good first touch, Gregg noted pointing out that that many kids like to run around and hog the ball. “In this program, we limit them to two touches—control and pass—because we don’t want them running around with the ball,” she pointed out. “This is one of the major problems when we have the league. You find one player will want to take the ball from one end to the other end without looking up to see if there’s another player on his team to pass it to. That’s not going to work. They are here to do the basic things and we are here to ensure they perform it properly.”