Wed | Dec 6, 2023

Former national U-15 coach wants to open US pipeline for local women

Published:Tuesday | May 16, 2023 | 1:49 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Toni Cowan, assistant women’s football coach at South Carolina State University.
Toni Cowan, assistant women’s football coach at South Carolina State University.

Former national under-15 girls’ coach Toni Cowan, who is now the women’s assistant coach at South Carolina State University, wants to act as a conduit for local talent to get into the United States college system.

Cowan pointed out that traditionally, Jamaican players go through community colleges before advancing to division schools and one of her desires is to help Jamaican girls go straight into division one programmes.

“My number one priority is and always will be women’s football in Jamaica. So with me being here, my number one goal in the position I have is to help players come to me from Jamaica, and knowing that they will be going to a division one school.

“I know what the talent is like in Jamaica. So I can come and I know you, I see you play and you are 17. So let’s talk and I take you to school.

“That is one of my main goals and I have already started the process. Identifying players from home and giving them the opportunity. So I am looking to be a pipeline and there are other (division one) schools that we are working with,” she disclosed.

She pointed out that questions have been raised regarding the educational qualification of our most talented local girls, but Cowan is convinced many will meet the qualifying standard for grades.

She is also working with Neo Oxford of the Reinas women’s football club to identify and prepare players for this opportunity.

“There is a lot of talk about grades but I know some of the girls can do the work. I do work closely with Neo Oxford, so even though I am not in Jamaica I stay in touch with him. We talk about girls, discuss where we are sending them and how we prepare them.

“So that is the intention. When I am really settled, we can really sit, talk and we will start having girls here once their grades are good enough,” said the former Layola University player.

Cowan, who completed her UEFA B badge last year, also holds an associate degree in coaching from Hungary along with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) level one and two certifications.

Her main task with the Bulldogs is ensuring the team is set up properly in defence, breaking down the opponents, giving video feedbacks and suggestions on how to attack and how to defend against specific attacks.

“Those are my main functions making sure that they’re in the right shape and the right space,” she pointed out.

Her first duty, however, is to organise fitness programmes for the girls in the off-season, before going into planning for the actual preseason with the rest of the technical staff.

She noted that for the first time in her coaching career, apart from her stint with Cavalier men’s Premier League team, she will have players consistently available to her in training, and her objective is to see growth and confidence in her players.

“The expectation I have of myself is to affect the girls and their confidence and let them see themselves develop, not only individually with their skills but how they relate to the team.

“I will look at how they have changed from day one to day ten in their respond to the training, and see how they translate that on the field. So it is just making sure that I am able to see the improvement,” she said.

South Carolina made it to the elite eight of the NCAA last season, and for Cowan any improvement in the team would be a plus in her first season.

“For this season, I just want to see the girls playing the way we want them and execute. The aim is always to win games but you have to be aware of where you are and what you are looking for.

“So if the girls are playing the right way and we are not scoring, but conceding one versus last season when we were conceding three, then that would be a step-up. So we are just keeping the goals tangible at the moment,” Cowan said.