What’s next for football?
We have completed our sojourn in the FIFA World Cup 2018. We made it to the second round preliminaries and we were soundly trounced, one game after another.
What’s next for football in St Vincent and the Grenadines?
The SVG Football Federation (SVGFF) must now take stock. This means getting the major stakeholders together in an effort to have them engage in a comprehensive of the performance of Vincy Heat in the World Cup preliminaries.
Such a review is not just about what went wrong. It is as much about what went right.
All too often we tend to focus on beating up ourselves for not having done better. That should not however be our point of departure.
By beginning with what we did right tends to give the players and technical staff a sense that they have the potential to do well with improvement. The national association must be able to show that they possess strengths that would be of immense benefit to the development of the team.
The identified strengths are to be nurtured and enhanced for the future.
The fact that Vincy Heat suffered heavy defeat in some of its World Cup encounters was embarrassing. But that does not mean that there were not important lessons to be drawn from those encounters that must inform any strategies for change going forward.
It is important that we identify where we are weak and to set about facilitating a process that would allow for addressing these weaknesses so that in the future we can have less of them and greater strengths all around.
There appears to have been some challenges at the administrative level of the local football federation. Any sort of conflict at the administrative level inevitably impacts the national football team and its preparation for regional and international competitions.
The administrators of sport always have major challenges to keep the sport stable enough to make the progress that is needed to impact the regional and international scene.
The current leadership must do more to put allay any fears in respect of the stability of the organisation.
Strong, stable leadership guarantees the athletes and technical personnel that planning can take place without interruption.
The administrative cadre of the organisation must at once be eager to engage in continuous education and keep abreast of developments in the sport at the global level.
Strategic planning and effective monitoring and evaluation of the implementation is always necessary if success is the ultimate goal.
There must be a well-trained, highly competent and committed technical department in football if we are to succeed.
The Technical team is usually headed by the technical director. He/she leads the process of analysing all the technical requirements of the federation at all levels. He/she determines the number of teams in training at any given point in time and also establishes a comprehensive coaches’ development programme for the organisation.
The technical director also ensures that appropriately qualified coaches are assigned specific responsibilities in the overall development of national teams, consistent with the requirements of FIFA.
Technical matters are handled by a team of professionals and not a single individual. So it is that while there is an appointed technical director there is a professional team of which he/she is a part. Such a team includes the coaches of the different national teams as well as the sports medical personnel – physiotherapist, physician, nutritionist and sport psychologist. If we are deficient in the composition of the technical staff we are sure to lose our way.
It is often assumed in this country that all that is required of an athlete is that he is allowed to play enough with the coaching provided. Unfortunately, we have in the past failed to take note of the important role of the nutritional status of the players and we have certainly under-played the importance of their psychological well-being. We assume every player is alright.
Many a good player has been lost to national duty because no time was taken to address his emotional development. In most instances the coach and even the technical director may have been at fault, not recognising a problem that they could not themselves address.
Over the years we have really been under-prepared for international competition despite the successes we have had.
The current technical director, Keith Ollivierre, has been exposed to the concept of long term athlete development (LTAD) and has been attempting to bring this to bear on his work with the national team. This is a major challenge.
Ollivierre must creatively bring all of the football coaches to an understanding of and appreciation for the ways in which, as a collective, football in St Vincent and the Grenadines would apply the principles of LTAD in every aspect of their approach to the development of the sport.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach that can be deemed acceptable in football.
Those who are carrying the responsibility of introducing children to the sport of football must ensure that they are doing so in accordance with the LTAD principles within the context of St Vincent and the Grenadines. This is as much an education exercise that requires great attention and consistent planning, monitoring and evaluation.
It is extremely important that football and indeed all sports ensure that there is a scientific approach to the development of their athletes. Due attention must be paid to the stage at which fundamentals are to be introduced and the pace of moving on from one stage to the next thereafter.
Too many coaches have attempted to make every one of their athletes a star too early, often pushing them to new heights without carefully monitoring the fit between chronological age, training age and developmental age. If there are discrepancies along the way then the athlete would not realise his/her full potential in the sport. This is true of every sport.
St Vincent and the Grenadines’ most popular sport is football. Everywhere youngsters are eager to play the game. The unfortunate truism is that they are not always properly introduced to the sport.
In the absence of a scientific approach to the sport here many children never get into it because they may not be as aggressive as others. Who knows how many good players we may have lost along the way because of this approach.
At the primary school level it is often the case that those students who show a certain aptitude for the game are the ones who are take aside and used as the basis for the team. Those who do not may never get a change to be taught the fundamentals and turn away from the sport.
Ollivierre and his team mush ensure that there is a change in approach from the fundamentals upwards.
Monitoring and evaluation
Every programme that an association seeks to create must be subjected to vigilance. We are here speaking about consistent monitoring and evaluation of the programme being implemented.
The value of monitoring and evaluation is that it allows the national sport association to be able to determine the strengths and weaknesses emergent from the implementation process.
It is only by consistent monitoring and evaluation that the association is able to determine where it needs to apply more resources in order to attain the desired success.
In the case of local football we have no coherent football development policy and programme from children to adults. What occurs is that different coaches get together a team of well-meaning individuals of like interest and organise training sessions for children. These are not part of any national federation programme and therefore are not monitored and evaluated.
The football federation has to establish a policy for the development of the sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines from which would flow the development programme from childhood introduction to fundamentals through to the elite level.
The programme must be consistently monitored and evaluated and appropriate modifications made.
Where external help is needed the federation should readily seek out what is best and engage the fraternity in effecting meaningful change.
If we fail to plan we are really planning for failure and we appear to be quite good at that.