President of the newly formed Caribbean Football Coaches Association (CARFCA) Emmanuel Bellas is on a mission to educate as many coaches as he possibly can within the region, to strengthen the game of football.
Following a year of preparation, the CARFCA came to fruition on April 24. Bellas explained after the pandemic took effect last year, Jamaican Coach and Vice President of the Association, Vinny Blaine began having regular online forums geared towards the technical development and coaching education for Caribbean coaches through his online platform, On The Sideline.
“At one point in time, it was suggested since we have so many Caribbean coaches, why don’t we try to form a Caribbean Coaches Association,” he said.
Incidentally, Bellas, who is also Vice President of the St Lucia Football Association said the suggestion came from Barbados’ Coach of RF Prime Football Academy, Richard “Juggy” Forde. He said from there the ball began rolling and they selected persons to form a Steering Committee, started working on the Constitution, recruitment drive, Terms of Reference, and their Memorandum of Understanding.
“We discussed registering the Association, which is a non-profit organization, so we had to have some sort of institutional network with it. We realized the easiest place, in terms of less red tape, would have been Belize, so we took the decision to register it in Belize,” he said.
The group worked tirelessly, meeting every weekend to ensure everything was put in place. Bellas admitted the website gave some challenge, and while it was currently accessible, it was not complete. Originally, the launch of the Association was scheduled for January, but because some things had not been put in place, they decided to delay the launch until April 24.
So far CARFCA has had discussions with the Scottish FA and the Barcelona-based Making Better Professionals (MBP) School of Coaches, and have already scheduled webinars for the end of next month.
“A lot of our coaching education is going to be online, because the MBP, Scottish FA, and some other entities have online courses that they offer at a cost. If persons go as individuals it can be a lot, so they are working alongside us so these persons can get these courses at a reduced rate,” Bellas said.
In addition to the partnership, some of the courses being offered, like licensing for the coaches, which would normally be a challenge if undertaken individually, would be offered on a grouped basis and at a reduced rate through the Association.
“It will be one thing for an international institution to run a course for you as an individual vis-à-vis running it for an organization, so we have a number of courses that are supposed to come on stream by the end of May and is available to all members of the Association,” he said.
The former St Lucian National Under-20 Women’s coach directed all interested in signing up to visit the CARFCA website. He said the courses were available at US$25 per year for D-License Coaches, and anything above, while those with qualifications below that would only be eligible for Associate Membership within the organization and not open to all the benefits of the Association.
Bellas, who was recently appointed as Head Coach of the Under-17 team at the St Lucia Sports Academy, with responsibility for the boys’ team explained there were three categories of members; Associate, Full and Honorary.
“We took the opportunity to bestow on one Caribbean person the Honorary Membership tag. That is Alvin Corneal from Trinidad and Tobago because of the amount of work he has done in the Caribbean and beyond in terms of football development. He is technically our first member and an honorary member,” Bellas said proudly.
Bellas, who has been coaching for over 25 years, said while COVID-19 had affected all MAs in the Caribbean, Concacaf had begun some courses that ordinarily would have been done face-to-face but were now being done online.
“We know that coaches working with their players have been affected, but the COVID now is not preventing any courses from being done. The only hindrance to that is if you are doing a course with a practical component, that is where the issue will have to be dealt with, but I think with the virtual learning, it appears to be very interactive,” he said.
He said in order to do a practical assessment, a coach would have to be working with a team and if there were restrictions in a particular country for contact sports, as in the case in St Lucia or Barbados, then there might be an issue.
However, the former domestic player, said he did not see online facilitation as a drawback for any coach.
“We have to be optimistic that COVID itself, either we have to live with it or I daresay disappear. We’re finding out now that some countries are beginning to ease their restrictions in terms of contact sports. If that is done, the practical nature will be facilitated and things are going to get a lot easier for everyone.
“Some of the discussions we have had, have brought out the best practices among the coaches, so even when you get out of group discussions, you are now able to have one-on-one discussions in terms of best practices that can help you as an individual, coaches in your country and can also help your Member Association,” he added.