The women’s football program here is one of the most celebrated in the Caribbean. Many female players have benefited educationally through scholarships and through trials with top clubs in the United States.
The latest to make a breakthrough is Amanda Frederick, who is spending her first week at Rabun Gap Academy, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Frederick is the national team Under-15’s captain and skipper of the Elite Sports Club girls U-15 side that won the league and FA Cup last season. The 14-year-old defender is also in Elite women’s team who were runners-up in the league last season. She was voted defender of the year.
During the summer, Frederick went to a football camp in Canada with the women’s U-20. She also went to Florida with Elite for a football camp and Atlanta to watch one of the Gold Cup matches, where they met Jeffrey Webb, the Caymanian who is CONCACAF president and a FIFA vice president.
The women’s program was built up by coach Thiago Cunha for eight years until he left two months ago to take up a pro coaching job in Dubai.
Cunha is still in touch with many Cayman girls he helped.
Shamar Frederick, Amanda’s mother, said: “Thiago spotted Amanda’s talent a few years ago and has been a big part in developing her in the gym and on the field to where she is today.
“We thank him so much for this. We also thank coaches Martha Godet and Greg Ebanks as well for training her at Elite. Martha gave Amanda the opportunity to play in the women’s league, showed the faith in her abilities and, by doing, so she helped to also develop her.
“Thiago directed us to Rabun Gap Academy, we got in touch with the school, looked into everything about it and what it had to offer and decided to send Amanda after getting financial coverage for her to go.”
Frederick will be playing once the season starts at the school. She has always had a high academic record, and has been on the honor roll from the time she was in primary school.
She was captain of Year 9’s Dolphins Academy at John Gray High School and was voted 2013’s sports person of the year.
She enjoys many sports, but football is her first love because of the challenges, especially when it comes to playing in the women’s league.
Amanda is inspired by her sister Shanelle, 17, another national team player.
Shanelle, a striker, is in high school here and, if all goes according to plan, she will be attending South Georgia State College next year. She was the top goal scorer for the third consecutive year in the league last season.
Amanda said, “I feel good that I’ve made the senior team at this age and I’m very excited about going to Rabun Gap.
“I think I will be able to cope with playing in a U.S. school football because I’ve been training for a long time and I’m well prepared.”
She admits that seeing Shanelle doing so well was a big motivation. “When I saw Shanelle going on national team trips, I wanted to start too for those opportunities,” Amanda said.
Martha Godet said, “We’re really extremely proud of Amanda because she has come a long way and is one of the youngest in the national team. This is a real achievement for her.
“She is very determined, a fighter and is very strong for [her] body size and age overall. Having an older sister in the squad is another motivation. She is always admiring Shanelle’s skills and capabilities, so I’m under the impression Amanda wants to be equal or better. Amanda played as a defender in Elite’s team last season and proven herself in the women’s senior league.”
Godet added that Frederick will definitely be in the CONCACAF U-20 squad that will play in a tournament here in January.
Cunha said, “The most significant impact for a coach to make is not winning titles, the media, popularity or money. The most important thing for me is to identify players’ talent from young and develop them day by day. You can see where they came from and where they are today.
“I had the privilege to coach Amanda since she was 10. I just want to thank Shamar and Martinez (her husband) for believing in me five years ago when I told you Amanda will be a top player in the Cayman Islands.”
Cunha added that everything was planned, developed and perfectly organized.
He makes the point that it is not easy to get a top American school with a scholarship because they have so many players to choose from.
“I’m proud of those girls,” Cunha said. “All of them left Cayman and they are doing extremely well in U.S. colleges and schools.”
Cunha is particularly pleased with the progress of the Frederick sisters because their family moved from Cayman Brac specifically to enhance their education and football careers.
“We saw the natural talent from young and my job was clear in a very special way, to show these diamonds to the world,” Cunha said. “They are fantastic.”
He added that he hopes the Cayman Islands women’s football development process does not lose momentum.
“It’s not normal that a very small island sends around 30 women footballers in top schools and colleges to the top women’s football country in the world.
“Wherever I go in my life, I will keep repeating that all of them are very special, blessed, amazing players.
“I’m sure that in 10 or 20 years’ time one of these players will be a leader of the country. The players personalities, character are very strong and clear. They know what they want. They will shine all the time.”