Sixteen of the 48 primary schools registered for the second edition of the Scotibank Concacaf NextPlay Cup set the tone in the preliminaries at the Barbados Football Association's Wildey Turf.
And some of the coaches have adjudged the event the best thing by far.
Schools that participated in the first day of the two-day culmination were Wilkie Cumberbatch, Eagle Hall, Grantley Prescod Memorial, St Ambrose, Wesley Hall, St Bartholomew, Luther Thorne, St Winifred’s, Belmont, Hill Top, St Stephen’s, Eden Lodge, Deacons, Lawrence T Gay, St Giles and The Ifill School.
Additionally, young referees who recently completed the first ever Secondary School's Referees Program officiated at the games.
NextPlay, which was launched in Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago in 2018, saw over 1,000 children gain soccer skills as well as valuable life lessons.
This year’s NextPlay Cup culminates on December 6 following a two-day after-school training sessions over six weeks. Last year 1,600 students were targeted, and the aim was to attract 4,500 students or a 280 per cent increase of participants.
Coach of the Wesley Hall Junior School football team Kwame Ramsey said he saw the event as a blessing in disguise.
“Today’s activities have been going smoothly so far. I see it as a positive venture by Concacaf and Scotiabank. The children seem to be having a lot of fun and they seem to be implementing a lot of things that we would have done in our practise sessions at school, which is a lot of patience, teamwork, understanding and cooperation. That represents the tenets which I believe Scotiabank and Concacaf are trying to relay to the schools and primary school football.
“I think that eventually as time goes by, these sort of things will impact the primary school football in Barbados which in turn will elevate our level of football within the country. To start at this stage with the youth in this manner of football is a very positive and good thing for us,” he said.
Similarly, second-timers Grantley Prescod Memorial Primary’s coach Mario Vanderpool said the program was a great initiative.
“I think the NextPlay initiative is a great initiative, to not only instil skills football-wise to the youngsters but also life skills and to show them that football is more than just a sport. That they can use it to become better individuals,” he said.
Meanwhile, first-timers to the NextPlay Cup St Ambrose Primary’s Shakira Mohan said this was definitely a “good thing in my books”.
“I can truly say that NextPlay is the way to go. The camaraderie, the children getting the exposure, the free stuff; I am all for that. They sometimes cannot afford it and being able to be gifted the items in order to participate and develop their skills is the number one thing in my books,” she said.