The Home of Caribbean Football spoke with Englishman Craig Harrington, Technical Director of the Turks & Caicos Islands FA…
Picture credit for this article’s featured image: Visit Turks and Caicos Islands.
1 – Tell us a bit about your background within football coaching…
“I worked my way up the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) pyramid and spent 3.5 years at LA Galaxy working full time in their academy. I assisted in the development and growth of all the Galaxy academy programmes. I oversaw the selection and development of the players aged 12 to 18 as well as being responsible for the club’s first curriculum, concentrating on creating more organised, age appropriate training sessions, developing coaching practices and creating an environment that was fun for the players.
In my current role as Turks & Caicos Islands Technical Director, I oversee the long-term strategies for development of both coaches and players at all levels. Striving to improve the national team programme, I make sure that we have a connected programme as the philosophies implemented with the senior team are being shared across all the youth teams. Implementing other elements as well to help our players and coaches improve as much as possible.”
2 – How did you get involved with the TCIFA? Did they contact you or did you contact them?
“I saw that they had an opening and applied for the position. After a prolonged interview process, I was offered the position and was delighted to accept.”
3 – What is the infrastructure and facilities like on the islands? Do FIFA help contribute to this in a financial sense?
“The infrastructure and facilities are very good. We have a supportive and progressive board and are fortunate to have a top class National Academy training centre. We have four changing rooms with showers, two referee rooms, a dormitory sleeping 20, two offices (one is mine), a conference room as well as one fully light grass field, 3g turf field with lights and a beach soccer pitch all on site. And in 2016 we will have seating for 500 on site around the grass field as well as lights for the beach soccer pitch and marked out futsal pitches on the tarmac at the National Academy. FIFA does help with its Goal Project scheme which is so important for the smaller, less developed countries like ourselves.”
4 – How would you assess the current state of Turks & Caicos football (men/women)?
“The current state of the game in Turks & Caicos is the best it has ever been with the quality of coaching and players we have here on both the men’s and women’s side. Our grassroots programme continues to grow and will keep growing with the number of participants playing the game here.”
Grassroots is the main focus every day for us here at the TCIFA
5 – What is happening at grassroots level? Are there festivals, workshops, seminars, sessions and tournaments being implemented for young children to participate in?
“So much. It is the main focus every day for us here at the association. At the heart of the TCIFA’s extensive Football Development Programme is our six-tier Development Pathway. This is central to our coaching philosophy and is our commitment to progressing every single player to their maximum ability level as part of our player development scheme. The pathway enables us to structure our coaching so each child will be training with players of a smilier ability level. This structure will enhance their enjoyment and confidence, and help to ensure they get the maximum out of each session. The six-tier structure creates a clear pathway for each individual player. Whether they are playing for sheer fun and enjoyment, or aiming to push to that next level. The TCIFA Football Development Pathway can cater to each player’s individual coaching needs.
We host as much CONCACAF/FIFA/USSF licence as we can each year that fit our needs and the direction we are going in. The education for all our stake holders is so important. To have these organisations be a part of this country’s football development gives us such credibility in how we are doing things down here. It is also a relationship we all value and take great pride in. The TCIFA’s coaches education is so important and especially for us as an emerging nation and the players of now and the future. The only way to really bring about change and improvement is to better educate coaches, especially the ones that work with the youth players. Better coaching will inevitably lead to better football.
In the vision of the TCIFA, Coach Education and Youth Development are the primary strategic spearheads to realise the Curriculum’s objectives. That’s why we the Association has been creative and developed the Guest Coach Program as well as entering into agreements with the USSF to hold coaching courses at the National Academy. It is important to understand that this is a long term process and will take a couple of generations of coaches going through the coach education pathways before the effect will become visible.”
6 – How would you assess the level of talent in Turks & Caicos? And what must be done in order to get these youngsters playing abroad, like in the USA (MLS, NASL, USL, College Soccer), Europe, Asia etc?
“The quality of the male/female players aged 9 to 15 is high and it is very important to get as many of these players off the islands as possible playing in college. Due to the small player pool it’s hard to get top level competitive games which is what they need.”
Better coaching will inevitably lead to better football
7 – USA and Mexico are traditionally the most dominant teams within CONCACAF, but how can the confederation’s smaller islands such as the Turks & Caicos challenge and compete against them, narrow the gap? Or is that virtually impossible?
“We can’t. It’s impossible as our population is too small. It’s something we don’t try to do. We must continue to move forward and adapt to the landscape of world football and be the leader of not only football in the country but also social leadership to inspire the youth of today to be the best that they can be in all areas of living.
The government-run State Institutes of Sport have moved away from football and focused elsewhere. Football has developed physically but technically, too, to a breathtaking level. In order to safeguard this important layer of talented player pathway, the association has always taken ownership of the Grassroots to National Training programmes. We realise that only a consistent and structured long-term approach will deliver the necessary changes and improvements that we want here. A good example of that approach is Japan which started their football development plan 20 years ago with the results only now starting to become visible.
Sir Trevor Brooking puts it this way in his foreword of the English FA’s Technical Guide for Young Player Development: “Developing young players who are capable of excelling on the international stage is not an issue which will change in the short-term and it is crucial that a long-term development mindset is adopted.”
8 – What do you plan to achieve whilst in charge of the TCIFA? Vision? Aspirations? Targets? Legacy?
- The Leader in CONCACAF Domestic Player Development
- Community Outreach
- Continue to Build a High Value “Brand”
- Create Best Player Pathway from Grassroots to Men/Women National Teams.
“I want to develop international class players who will go on to play for the Turks & Caicos Islands, collegiate and professional soccer franchises across the world. I want the TCIFA to become known as one of the best CONCACAF environments and resources to inspire and develop players to their full personal and athletic potential. I want to create a powerful legacy for the TCIFA, players, families, investors and fans.”
Interview conducted by Nathan Carr