The Cayman Islands National U-15 football team are working hard and honing their skills before facing one of the most important competitions of their football career: the 2017 CONCACAF U-15 Boys Tournament.
Head coach Bruce Sigsworth said the national team members are all under 14, and some are just 12 years old, a testament to the forward-thinking of the long-term player development program, which began in 2013. In addition to Sigsworth, assistant coaches Ian Lindo and Robin Jarvis and team manager Marilyn Connolly have been training and working with the boys.
“The team has developed through a set training syllabus and constant assessment by the coaches, with some practice matches against older club teams,” Sigsworth 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 Naples Cup in Florida.
Training was intensified for that trip, Sigsworth said, where two teams of 18 participated: the U-13, captained by Kiran Basdeo, and the U-14 team, captained by Luke Byles.
“The teams gained valuable experience and challenged themselves against some of Florida’s best club teams,” he said. “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’ performance, this year a team of the 20 most skilled boys will be taken on a tour of football academies in England where they will be coached by the academy 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 he didn’t want the team to be negatively impacted by such challenges.
“Funding for our players to travel to the U.K. will be raised through private donations and sponsorships,” he said.
The highlight of their young football career, he said, will be next year’s CONCACAF U-15 Boys Tournament, where the national team will play against some of the best young football players 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.
“This competition will test the boys unlike no other,” Sigsworth said of the CONCACAF tournament. “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 program 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,” the coach said.