U15s show the path for net gains

The success of the Cayman Islands hosting a regional football tournament has motivated other sports. 

Among them are basketball and volleyball, which are eager to boast a strong Under-15 talent pool to match what the national sport showcased this month during the inaugural Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football Under-15 Boys Championship.  

Carl Brown serves as the public relations officer for the Cayman Islands Volleyball Federation and he said the championship served as an inspiration for other sports. 

“We’re getting somewhere, we’re part of the promise of Cayman’s sports tourism platform,” Brown said. “We share an equal platform with the Flower’s Sea Swim and now the CONCACAF Under-15 games. We can impact tourism in a positive way. The North Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation Beach Volleyball Circuit brings 18-20 countries down every year and increases the tourists’ interest in Cayman and sports like volleyball.  

“We’re proud to be part of the leadership in regards to sports tourism. Our next step is to develop our programs to be a core sport and get more support from the Ministry of Sports. We want to get more young people into the sport and into training for the national team. The current group shows great potential, the future of the sport looks in good hands. We just have to increase and reach a certain level to say our heads are well above water.” 

The CONCACAF tournament wrapped up last weekend, with Honduras emerging victorious. Cayman was narrowly eliminated in the group stages, after winning four of its five matches – defeating St. Maarten, 12-0; U.S. Virgin Islands, 4-0; Bahamas, 3-1; and Aruba, 4-2. The only loss was to Bermuda, 3-0, the eventual fourth-place team. 

In all, the tournament featured more than 400 players between the ages of 13-15 at Grand Cayman’s various football venues. National teams from 24 member associations competed in Cayman, making it the largest CONCACAF competition of its kind to be played in a single country. It created a multimillion dollar boost to the economy during low season for local tourism. 

Collin Anglin is the government’s director of sports and has an intimate relationship with local basketball as a current player and past member of the Cayman Islands Basketball Association executive committee. Anglin said the Under-15 age group has the most potential. 

“The kids coming up have huge potential,” Anglin said. “Look at the performances of the national Under-15 girls team in the 2012 CentroBasket tournament in Mexico. They had a phenomenal performance, finishing fifth. The girls team is striving and there is great progress in the boys team as well. It can only get better and we have to focus on programs catered to our young players. 

“Look at players like La-Torae Nixon and Hannah Parchment, who are 16 or so, they’ve been playing basketball for … eight years and have loads of experience. From the KPMG Under-14 league, we’re seeing where kids are just getting exposed to basketball. As a focus sport, kids should be introduced to basketball at an earlier age. That’s not just an issue for basketball, but all sports in general. The stakeholders are sitting down and talking about it.”  

CONCACAF and Cayman Islands Football Association President Jeffrey Webb, the creator of the Under-15 championships, has already announced Cayman will host more international competitions during the next 12 months. The Under-20 women’s finals are slated to be held here in January, with the Under-15 girls tournament slated for next August. 

Football is one of six primary sports in Cayman, with the others being track and field, basketball, cricket, netball and swimming. In Anglin’s mind, young people will only excel in those sports with the proper sporting facilities. 

“They just need to be in continuous training, which goes back to the facilities,” he said. “Basketball doesn’t have its own home and that’s a facility issue. Growing up, we trained at the Lions Centre all year and every day. We hope to rectify that in the future. I hope the kids are exposed to a lot more at a much earlier age.” 

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Chloe Powery, with the ball, was part of a successful 2012 CentroBasket team. – PHOTOs: MATTHEW YATES

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