Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
On the back of a successful hosting of the CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Football Championship in Montego Bay, the Digicel Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Grassroots Football Festival swung into the second city on Sunday at Jarrett Park, where close to 100 young girls received pointers from two of the current junior Reggae Girlz.
On hand to literally take the girls aged 6-12 through their paces were national team captain Khadija Shaw and Keneisha Blackwood, along with several other coach educators that included two daCosta Cup players from Green Pond High, Kashief Brown and Ramone Sibbley.
Shaw and Blackwood were mainstays of the Jamaica Under-17 squad that finished fourth in the recent CONCACAF Championship, and technical director for the national women's programme, Vin Blaine, believes having the Grassroots Festival for girls has come at the right time.
"This side of the island had a vibrant programme once, but that went away. But this reintroduction will definitely do well for rebuilding the programme out here in the west," reasoned Blaine.
"I hope this will revitalise the women's programme in this side of the island, starting with these girls; and once that is done, we will look back on this and declare it a tremendous success," he added.
The girls, mainly drawn from St James, had many others representing the three other western parishess - Hanover, Westmoreland and Trelawny - which make up the Western Confederation.
They were taught the basics of the game, how to control, dribble, pass and shoot, using examples from the coach educators.
"There is a need to play more football in Jamaica, and so we need to introduce the game early, as they do in North America so we can understand the game. I think this augurs well for that," said Blaine.
The weekend also catered to a coaching clinic, where the Grassroots philosophy was taught. The plan, according to the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) national football coordinator for the Grassroots Programme, Andre Virtue, is to have the coach educators using what they have learnt to keep the girls focused on football.
"Once these coach educators can pass on the basics to the girls, I will be happy. They came out in numbers, and have really enjoyed themselves here today. We could not ask for anything more," said Virtue.
Livingston Burley, a coach educator with the Westmoreland Football Association (WFA), agrees that the Grassroots Programme was what was lacking, noting that they can now begin to urge young girls to participate in football at an early age.
"In Westmoreland, we can now begin to bring girls into football from this young age. As you can see, the girls here are very excited about the game, and it is hoped that they will gain in stature the kind of technical ability to help position the national women's programme squarely on the map."