(CNS): The Cayman Islands National U-15 football team, after being tested at an international tournament in Florida a few months ago, continues to train for the 2017 CONCACAF U-15 Boys Tournament, one of their most important competitions to date. Head coach Bruce Sigsworth said that the team members are actually still all under 14 with some just 12, a testament to the forward-thinking of the long-term player development programme currently in progress, which began in 2013.
Players have been training under the guidance of Sigsworth as well as assistant coaches Ian Lindo and Robin Jarvis, and team manager Marilyn Connolly.
Sigsworth spoke of the U-15 team’s progress. “The team has developed through a set training syllabus and constant assessment by the coaches with some practice matches against older club teams,” he said. “They train once a week and we continue to seek any opportunity to broaden their experience and assist in their development.”
One such opportunity was the players’ participation in last year’s competition in Florida. “Training was intensified for their recent trip to the Naples Cup in Naples, Florida, where two teams participated: the U-13, captained by Kiran Basdeo and U-14 team, captained by Luke Byles,” he said, adding that the 18 players on each team “gained valuable experience and challenged themselves against some of Florida’s best club teams. The boys performed very well, particularly in light of the fact that this was their first international tournament as a team and first overseas tournament ever for some of the players”.
In order to continually improve players’ performances, this year a team of the 20 most-developed boys will be taken on a tour of football academies in England where they will receive training by the local coaches and play games against the academy teams.
“They may face academy teams from high-profile English football clubs, such as West Ham United, Chelsea, QPR, Birmingham City, Reading, Swindon Town and Yeovil,” Sigsworth said.
He added that CIFA’s limitations have led to a shortage of funding for youth-development opportunities but that he didn’t want the team to be negatively affected by such challenges. “Funding for our players to travel to the UK will be raised through private donations and sponsorships,” he said.
The highlight of their young football careers will be participating in the 2017 CONCACAF Boys Tournament, at which the team play against some of the best footballers among their age group in the region. The team is also set to compete against the Houston Dynamos later this year and to return to the Naples Cup in the fall.
Sigsworth discussed the challenges of the CONCACAF tournament. “This competition will test the boys unlike no other,” he said. “Mental stamina, team spirit and maturity will be just as important as physical prowess and ball skills, so we believe our long-term player development programme is all-encompassing and enhances all these skills to ensure that our National U-15 team will be able to play their very best on the day.
“As well as technical skills and sportsmanship, the boys are also gaining valuable lessons in leadership, teamwork and confidence which will set them on a strong path for development into adulthood.”