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Lessons from Rashid and Afghanistan

Lessons from Rashid and Afghanistan

by Shaun Fuentes While many were left disappointed and felt Afghanistan were left robbed of a fair opportunity in their semi-final outing at the Brian Lara academy due to the poor pitch conditions, resilience and perseverance surely are among several life values that can be inspiring from captain Rashid Khan and his men.  Despite facing challenges and instability in his home country,  Khan for one has risen to become one of the top cricketers in the world. His journey reflects the importance of staying determined and resilient in the face of adversity. And his success is a result of his relentless hard work and dedication to improving his skills. Overcoming Conflict and Instability: Khan was born in Nangarhar, Afghanistan, a region that has experienced significant conflict and instability.  His family was displaced due to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan and they moved to Pakistan for a period, where they lived as refugees. This experience of displacement added to the difficulties Khan faced growing up along with limited cricket infrastructure where Afghanistan has traditionally had limited  infrastructure compared to other cricketing nations. Despite this immense personal loss, he continued to perform at a high level, demonstrating his mental toughness and dedication to his career.Several members of the Afghan cricket team have experienced personal losses due to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. The exact details and names of players who have lost family members might not always be publicly available due to privacy and security concerns, but it is well-documented that many Afghan players have been deeply affected by the war and the instability in their country. Cricket has often been seen as a source of hope and unity for them and their fellow citizens amidst the turmoil. In July 2020, Rashid lost his mother, and earlier, in December 2018, he lost his father. While these losses were not directly attributed to the conflict, the overall context of instability and hardship in Afghanistan has affected many players Another cricketer, Mohammad Nabi, has also faced personal tragedies. Again although specific details about his family members lost in the war are not widely publicized, it is known that he and many other Afghan cricketers have grown up in a war-torn country and have faced numerous hardships due to the ongoing conflict.The stories of these cricketers highlight the resilience and determination they have shown in overcoming personal and national adversities. And yes,  Khan has mentioned in interviews that he grew up watching the "Rambo" movies starring Sylvester Stallone. He has stated that he admired the character of John Rambo for his resilience, bravery, and never-give-up attitude. These qualities have inspired Rashid in his own life and career, particularly in facing and overcoming challenges. The "Rambo" movies were a part of his childhood and had an impact on his mindset and approach to challenges. Members of the Afghan cricket team The Afghan captain has also established Rashid Khan Foundation  to support various charitable initiatives in Afghanistan. The foundation focuses on providing healthcare, education, and clean drinking water to underprivileged communities. He has shown a particular interest in supporting hospitals and clinics in underserved areas.Rashid's foundation has been involved in projects to provide clean drinking water to communities in Afghanistan.   While the resilience of Khan and Afghanistan is notable, research and general views conclude that countries that have experienced wars often excel in sports due to several factors/ People from war-torn regions often develop strong mental toughness, resilience, and determination, traits that are invaluable in sports. There is the Unity and National Pride factor where  Sports  serve as a unifying force and a source of national pride, especially in countries recovering from conflict. Post-conflict countries may invest in sports programs as part of their recovery and development strategies, recognizing sports as a way to engage youth, promote health, and foster community spirit. Talent and Opportunity: Hardships can reveal latent talents and abilities. In some cases, talented athletes might be discovered through grassroots programs that emerge in the wake of conflict.Cultural Significance: Sports might have a strong cultural significance in these countries, with traditional games and sports playing a vital role in society. Some countries that have experienced wars or significant conflicts and have achieved notable success in sports include Haiti, where  despite political instability and natural disasters, the country has produced successful athletes, especially in football.  Russia has a long history of conflicts, including the world wars and recent geopolitical tensions. Despite this, it has consistently excelled in sports like gymnastics, athletics, and winter sports. Croatia: Following the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, Croatia has excelled in sports, particularly football, reaching the World Cup final in 2018 and semi final in 2022. Despite ongoing conflicts, Iraq has achieved success in sports such as football, with the national team winning the 2007 Asian Cup. Cuba also has excelled in several Olympic sports. There is Sierra Leone: Emerging from a brutal civil war, Sierra Leone has seen success in athletics, especially in long-distance running.Ethiopia: While not always due to war, Ethiopia has experienced significant conflicts and instability but is renowned for its dominance in long-distance running. Rwanda: After the genocide in the 1990s, Rwanda has made significant progress in sports like basketball and cycling.South Africa: Post-apartheid South Africa has achieved great success in sports, particularly in rugby, cricket, and athletics. Closer to home, many have admired the historical resilience and spirit of Jamaica where their fighting spirit developed through Jamaica's history of overcoming colonialism, slavery, and economic challenges contributing to the determination and drive seen in its athletes. It has been documented that Jamaica's history and the Rastafarian movement have indeed contributed to the country's fighting spirit in sports in several ways. Their history of overcoming slavery, colonialism, and economic challenges has instilled a strong sense of resilience and determination in its people. This historical context contributes to the fighting spirit seen in Jamaican athletes who often embody a "never give up" attitude. The Rastafarian movement, which emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s, emphasizes self-reliance, pride in African heritage, and a spiritual connection to Africa. The pride in Jamaican culture and heritage, partly influenced by Rastafarian principles, creates a strong sense of identity and motivation to excel.   Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shericka Jackson completed a clean sweep of the medals in the 100m. (Via Getty Images)
There is the Music and Motivation side of it where  Reggae music, closely associated with Rastafarianism, often carries messages of resistance, resilience, and empowerment. This music has been source of motivation and inspiration for athletes, fueling their determination and fighting spirit.

Prominent figures in Jamaican history and the Rastafarian movement, such as Marcus Garvey and Bob Marley, serve as inspirational role models. Their messages of empowerment and self-determination resonate with athletes, encouraging them to strive for excellence.These cultural and historical influences combine to create a unique environment that fosters a strong fighting spirit among Jamaican athletes, contributing to their success in sports. Take this as something to reflect on. Mull it over and let's see how it can inspire new perspectives or actions for us a society in the world of sport. “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” ― Nelson Mandela
About the Author. Shaun Fuentes is a sport communications professional and writer for the past 27 years. He first joined the Trinidad Guardian in 1997 as a freelance reporter at age 16. He joined the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association as the Men's National Team Press Officer in 2000 and has stayed in the position since. He was a member of the FIFA Media Committee 2007-2009 and has been appointed a FIFA Media Officer at three World Cups - the 2010 South Africa World Cup, 2009 U-17 Men's World Cup in Nigeria and the 2013 U-20 Men's World Cup in Turkey. He has travelled to perform duties in 88 countries across the globe. He writes a column in the Trinidad Guardian on various topics every week.

Designing the Home Advantage

Designing the Home Advantage

by Shaun Fuentes, first published on October 8th,2023 Home-field advantage is caused by many factors that collectively affect the mental and physical conditions of athletes. If you’re a sports enthusiast, you know the weight that home-field advantage has on the performance of a team. It has been consistently found—not only in team sports, such as football, cricket and basketball but also in individual sports, like tennis—that players win more often when playing at home. Imagine that you’re walking into a stadium surrounded by scores of people cheering for you on your every move. Now, imagine that you are a member of the visiting team and have absolutely no support from the crowd. One might argue that professional athletes are adept at staying focused and not letting such things affect them. At most venues in the United States, like during the Concacaf Gold Cup, the team bus must pass through some sort of public road before getting to the drop-off point. And, as is the case with the US venues, the players come off the bus in an area that the public has no access to or sight of. In Central America, it’s not always the same. For instance, the recent Nations League away match to El Salvador was played at the Jorge Gonzales Stadium which is situated parallel to a major roadway. When the T&T team bus arrived at the stadium, any regular member of the public and moreso home fans at the venue had easy sight of the players and staff, all standing just about four metres away from the team bus. This meant that the jeers and all possible forms of intimidating acts from the home fans were difficult to avoid even with the presence of police and security officers with shields. The argument may be that it did not affect the T&T players because of the 3-2 end result but it does in fact play its part. The memory remains with you particularly when having to show up next time around. T&T goalkeeper Denzil Smith and forward Malcolm Shaw come off the team bus ahead of their Concacaf Nations League 2-1 victory over the United States at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain in November, 2023 Thousands of people encouraging players of the home team and cheering for them will boost their confidence and motivate them And if the team happens to be playing below expectations, the displeasure conveyed by the crowd puts the players back on their toes. The massive crowd support that a home team gets often puts the referee in a tough spot. All the jeering and cheering of the fans can pressure the referee into being more lenient with the home team… and with good reason! We’ve actually seen officials confess to this in recent times. An athlete who has travelled away from home for a game is thrown into unfamiliar surroundings, where they’re not sure what they will be eating, and where their bed is not nearly as comfortable as the one they usually sleep in. After all, there’s really no place like home. It’s a major reason why a lot of the top teams in world sport either national or club level, go above and beyond when possible to provide the best comfort and condition for their athletes. Many animals are territorial by nature and aggressively protect their territory from invaders. Their defensive response is linked to higher concentrations of testosterone. Studies conducted on the territorial nature of chimpanzees and mice found that their testosterone levels and aggressive behaviour were greater in their own territory, as compared to that in an alien territory. As quoted on ScienceABC, psychologists Nick Neave and Sandy Wolfson suggested that this surge in testosterone might not be limited to animals, but may also be exhibited by humans when put in a competitive environment, i.e. a sports game. They eventually found that testosterone levels do, in fact, show a greater increase before a home game than before an away game. A surge in testosterone means that the home team will have greater levels of aggression, a greater inclination to take risks, a higher metabolic rate in their muscles and improved spatial ability. A Trinidad and Tobago music band drums up support for its National football team. Home advantage can play a significant role in game outcomes. Players talk about it, coaches plan for it, and odds makers calculate it. Team owners even ask architects to maximise it. The closer the fans are, the more the players hear the noise, see the enthusiasm, and feel the energy. Venues can be designed to place stands as close to the pitch as possible, and steep-pitched seating bowls can bring the back rows closer to the action. Acoustic design maximises the crowd’s ability to drown the opposing team in roaring noise, disrupt their communication and intimidate them. The Azteca in Mexico City has been dubbed one of the loudest stadiums in the Western Hemisphere thanks to a design that focuses crowd noise onto the field. There are now several venues in North, South and Central America designed to have such effect. How easily fans can travel to a venue is a big factor in filling the seats. More people in the building means more energy. Barclays Center and several other international venues today demonstrate the difference between a typical sporting venue and an urban focal point where sports are the anchoring attraction. Venues can be designed to include amenities that broaden the appeal. Bars, Restaurants and shops make venues a hotspot for night-life and can keep the place buzzing with people and activities. I believe that some of our local venues have the potential for this based on space and design. It just needs proper planning, execution and well, discipline and financing. The quality of team amenities like locker rooms and training facilities makes a big difference in a team’s morale and self-image, which players carry into the field and into every play. Kudos to the recent work done on the refurbishment of the Hasely Crawford Stadium locker rooms. We must understand that ultra-modern technology, high-end design finishes, and institutional identity imagery all contribute to athletes’ sense of belonging—in a facility, in a tradition, and in contention for their highest honours. Anyone entering our venues including fans, past athletes, ministers and home teams must feel that sense of strong belonging and pride aided by the aesthetics, the colours and imagery inside our venues, and the visitors must know that they are opposition territory where the hosts embody the legacy of its people and achievements. "You must not only have competitiveness but ability, regardless of the circumstance you face, to never quit." ..

Latapy says 'Thank You' for Legends Support

Latapy says 'Thank You' for Legends Support

The following is a statement by Russell Latapy expressing thanks to everyone who contributed to the Legends vs All Stars Match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on May 10th, 2024. On behalf of the management team of The Russell Latapy Education and Sports Foundation, and all the participants, we wish to extend our sincere thanks for your  generous support and sponsorship of our Legends football game on May 10th, 2024.
Your commitment to the foundation, and support for local initiatives like ours which are designed to  support education and sports is truly commendable. Thanks to your contribution, and the support of the fans who turned out we were able to deliver an unforgettable experience. Your sponsorship not only made the game possible, but also elevated its quality and impact.
Moreover, your presence at this event added a special touch, and it was wonderful to see members of your team interacting with ours, which was  deeply appreciated.
The foundation’s management believe that partnerships like ours are invaluable in nurturing a sense of camaraderie, sportsmanship, and community spirit. Your sponsorship goes beyond financial support, it represents a shared commitment to empowering our youth, while building a stronger community together through education and sports.
We look forward to collaborating with you again in the future, while continuing to make a positive difference in the lives of those we serve. To all our fans, thank you for your unwavering support at the match. Your energy and enthusiasm lifted the players  and made all the difference. We couldn't have done it without you.
From the creative signs and all the smiles, to the wave of cheers that echoed throughout the stadium, you turned the event into a spectacular celebration. Your passion truly made the evening  unforgettable. To every player, our visiting four from Brazil and all of the local legends and all stars, again a heartfelt thank you for putting on such a scintillating show at the match. Your presence, skill, and performances  shone brightly, captivating everyone in attendance.

Your display was nothing short of amazing and it truly showcased the talent and love within our teams.
Once again, thank you for your generosity and support on behalf of The Russell Latapy Education and Sports Foundation team.
Russell Latapy . Russell Latapy and the son of Kevin Molino

Molino ready to welcome Kaka to T&T

Molino ready to welcome Kaka to T&T

by Shaun Fuentes Pushing Limits is the Media Operations handler for the Legends match on May 10th Former Trinidad and Tobago captain Kevin Molino is counting down the remaining days to May 10th as he prepares to welcome former Orlando City teammate and ex-Brazilian star Kaka to his home country for the Trinidad and Tobago versus International Legends encounter at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. Molino is among recent ex-National team players who have been called up by event host Russell Latapy for the charity affair which kicks off at 8:00pm. Joevin Jones, Khaleem Hyland, Marvin Phillip, Carlyle Mitchell, Radanfah Abu Bakr and Curtis Gonzales are just a few of the names Latapy confirmed on Wednesday for the match. For Molino, it’s one of those matches that he’s had on his bucket list and he’s excited about getting the chance to fulfil that ambition. “It’s a big honour for me to play on the same pitch alongside some of the legends of Trinidad and Tobago football,” Molino said. “These are some players that I never got the opportunity to play with and this game will give myself and some of my other ex-teammates the chance to grace the same field with these legends. I’m definitely excited but also looking to win,” he added. Kevin Molino celebrates a goal with Kaka during their playing days at Orlando City Kaka made 75 league appearances in his three seasons with Orlando, scoring 24 goals and providing 22 assists between 2014-2017 before moving to Sao Paulo. Molino lined up alongside the former AC Milan man on several occasions during his tenure at Orlando from 2011-2016. “I’m definitely looking forward to playing with Kaka again, especially getting to do this in my home country. We spoke a lot during my time as a player for the country about the importance of proper representation and he would have shared similar stories. “He always tried to encourage me to do my best. Now to welcome him here would be a great occasion and something I will cherish forever. But also just getting that chance to share this kind of experience with the other players is something worth the time and effort.” According to Molino, the aim is for the presence of the Legends such as Kaka to leave a lasting impression on those who will witness the match and to inspire the upcoming generation. “We’ve already chatted briefly and l told  him it will be a great trip for him to be here and that the country on a whole needs something like this when they can witness players like himself and Rivaldo, Cafu and Edmilson in the flesh. “I explained to him especially about the current situation in our country at the moment, it would be really great for them to come out and showcase their skills for the fans. That is the beauty about sport where occasions like this can bring some joy to the people and I am hoping we can have a positive impact on the young ones especially,” Molino added. Latapy disclosed that some of the other players who will appear on the pitch on May 10th include Cornell Glen, Carlos Edwards,Kenwyne Jones, Clayton Ince, Clint Marcelle, Stern John, Keon Daniel, Gary Glasgow and Hayden Tinto among others joining Dwight Yorke, Hutson Charles, Reynold Carrington, Densill Theobald, Earl Jean and Devorn Jorsling. The full line-ups will be announced in due course. Related Posts Latapy excited over assembly of Legends on May 10th Legends can transcend the boundaries of time

'Legends' can transcend the boundaries of time

'Legends' can transcend the boundaries of time

by Shaun Fuentes.
Pushing Limits is the official Media Operations handler for the Legends Match on May 10th. Watching old sport replays on television can evoke a sense of nostalgia because it transports viewers back to memorable moments from their past, reminding them of the excitement, emotions, and experiences associated with those events. It's like reliving a cherished chapter of sports history or even your own life history. In the realm of sports fandom, the experience of watching old highlights on television transcends mere entertainment. It is a journey through time, invoking a tapestry of emotions, memories, and reflections on bygone eras.   Reflect on how you feel while watching highlights of old Windies cricket matches today on your mobile phone or laptop. There are so many  replays which triggers a profound sense of nostalgia, transporting us back to pivotal moments in history. Whether it's Brian Lara’s 375 or 400 not out, Curtly Ambrose’s eight wicket haul versus England in 1990,  Dennis Lawrence’s legendary goal against Bahrain or Russell Latapy’s mesmerizing plays, these moments are etched into the collective consciousness of us as sports fans. It's like opening a time capsule, where each moment brings back vivid memories of where we were, who we were with, and how we felt during those events. There's a profound connection to the past, mixed with a renewed appreciation for the enduring legacy of those moments in sports history. It's a rollercoaster of emotions that reaffirms our love for the sports and the indelible impact it has had on your lives. This is part of the thinking behind the staging of the Legends Match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on May 10th hosted by the Russell Latapy Sports and Education foundation and I95.5FM. Cafu with the World Cup in 2002  For many fans, these great moments of the past are imbued with personal significance, representing cherished memories shared with family and friends or emblematic of pivotal junctures in their lives. These memories surely include the 2006 World Cup qualifying matches, the 1989 “Road to Italy” campaign with the Strike Squad and Cafu’s and Rivaldo’s 2002 World Cup winning feat in Japan/Korea.  The sight of familiar faces and jubilant celebrations elicits an emotional response that we all will want to recall on this coming Friday evening in May  Latapy, we can all agree, is a legendary figure in Trinidad and Tobago football, and for sports fans in T&T  he brings to mind memories of skill, flair, and sheer brilliance on the field. His impact extends beyond his exceptional talent on the pitch; he also symbolizes resilience and determination. Latapy's contributions along with that of Dwight Yorke, Stern John,  Brent Sancho, Brian Williams, Hutson Charles and many of the other “Legends” who will be on the pitch on May 10th, are etched in the collective memory of our fans serving as a source of pride and inspiration.  Their performances during the country's historic qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the 1990 campaign  left an indelible mark on the nation's sporting identity, embodying the spirit of perseverance and excellence. The Trinidad and Tobago Starting XI in the 1-0 victory over Mexico in a 2002 World Cup qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Stadium These ‘Legends” represent more than just  football players; they are  cultural icons, a symbol of the nation's passion for the beautiful game, and a testament to the talent and potential of Trinidadian athletes on the global stage. In conclusion, watching old nostalgic football stars in person or  on television is more than just a trip down memory lane—it is a transformative experience that resonates on multiple levels. It will hopefully connect viewers to the past, stir their emotions and fosters historical reflection. As we look ahead to May 10th or follow the old highlights on social media to continue to revisit these treasured moments, we celebrate not only the players and games but also the enduring power of sports to inspire, unite, and transcend the boundaries of time. Related Posts
Molino ready to welcome Kaka to T&T

Latapy excited over assembly of Legends on May 10th

Latapy excited over assembly of "Legends" on May 10th

Latapy excited over assembly of "Legends" on May 10th

Trinidad and Tobago Football Icon Russell Latapy is in the midst of finalising the selection of players from the upcoming Legends vs Trinidad and Tobago All Stars Exhibition match slated for Friday May 10th at the Hasely Crawford Stadium at 8pm.
The match has been brought forward by one day from the original date to accommodate changes to the schedule of events on matchday  of which further information will be forthcoming. Gates at the venue will open at 4:00pm. Between 2009 to 2011, Latapy would have had the task of selecting his squad for the Senior Mens Team while serving as head coach. But over the last few days, the “Little Magician” has been busy communicating with a mixture of home-based and overseas-based former national players from his playing days as well as recent ex-nationals, in an effort to put together the best possible group of ‘Legends” for this inaugural event being put on by the Russell Latapy Education and Sports Foundation and I95.FM .
“Over the last ten to fifteen years  Legends football has continued to grow in all corners of the globe and I believe we have a generation of players here who have done well and are at stage where we still love football and want to play. Not only play but also still have the physical ability to do that while there is a interest among the fans to see the these players out on the pitch,” Latapy said. Cafu and Rivaldo celebrate a goal with teammate Ronaldinho during their successful 2002 World Cup run. On the decision to put his name to the event and take a lead role in staging it, Latapy felt the timing was ideal for him to engage in something of this nature.
“Tony (Lee) of I95.5FM  had the idea of this match and invited me to be a part of it. And once we sat down and started to discuss the event I was delighted to take up the offer. It’s something I have been part of in different parts of the world and I think it’s something great for the Caribbean. It was a no brainer for me to be part of an initiative to bring a high level of Legends football to our country,” added the ex-Porto midfielder.
The Brazilian quartet of World Cup winners Kaka, Rivaldo, Cafu and Edmilson are the headliners who will take to the pitch at the Hasely Crawford Stadium with the likes of former national captain Dwight Yorke leading a group of ex-Soca Warriors including Carlos Edwards, Stern John, Brent Sancho, Kelvin Jack, Devorn Jorsling, Densill Theobald and “Strike Squad” members Leonson Lewis, Brian Williams, Hutson Charles and others.
“It’s Legends football so I’m trying to involve a lot of these players who have represented us well and delighted the fans over the years. I played over three decades both at national and club level and I’ve played with a lot of fantastic players. This game is just a way of showing appreciation to them for the everything they have contributed to football in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean by extension.
“The aim is to push that feel good factor about football in the country. It’s a situation where we think we can also set a good example for young players. There are so many good things we think we can come out of this sort of venture. A lot of the legends are still in good shape and there are a lot of young persons in our country who would like to see these players on the pitch. It’s a win-win situation all around,” Latapy added.
Further information on squad selections and physical ticket outlets will be forthcoming. At this time, tickets can be purchased online at islandetickets.com . Pushinglimits is the Media Operations handler for the Legends Match on May 10th Related Posts
Legends can transcend the boundaries of time Molino ready to welcome Kaka to T&T

The Africa Lifetime Experience

The Africa Lifetime Experience

by Shaun Fuentes FIFA Media Officer for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa
My first experience of South Africa came in June of 2003. I was into my third year as the Press Officer for the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s Senior Team and the country’s footballers were embarking on its first ever tour of the African continent for three international matches. The friendly against South Africa at the Telcom Stadium in Port of Elizabeth was the final of three in three different locations also including Kenya and Botswana. We had a short stop at initially in Johannesburg for a few days of training before journeying to Kenya and Botswana prior to returning to South Africa for the final match of the trip. Our team gave a decent showing but lost 2-1 to the home team which had already been announced as host nation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and preparations for the world’s biggest sporting spectacle was underway. I was 22 and wanted to make the best of the experience, thinking at the time that such a trip could well be a once in a lifetime experience. I hadn’t for a second imagined at the time that I would be back on South African soil for a game of footbal in a few yearl. Of course World Cup qualification for the 2010 tournament was still five or six years away and I wasn’t thinking that far.  Trinidad and Tobago would go on to qualify  for the 2006 World Cup in Germany and that experience was later followed by a 4-1 defeat away to Honduras in the CONCACAF final round of qualification in 2009 which meant all hopes of appearing at the South Africa 2010 World Cup with my country’s national team had vanished. In 2009 I had spent just over thirty days in the Nigerian cities of Abuja and Kaduna as a FIFA Media officer at the FIFA Under 17 Men’s World Cup. It was an eye opening experience for me into the operations of FIFA and the way in which a world event of such magnitude was executed. I had the experience of working at the 2001 U-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago but being based in Nigeria and handed the responsibility of overseeing all media operations as a FIFA official was of a next level. This was my baptism into shouldering responsibilities on a stage where there was no margin for error. It was me and rest of the team in Kaduna, some eight of us who represented FIFA working along with the Nigerian Local Organizing Committee pushing ourselves beyond  limits. It was fulfilling and satisfying as we completed the task of successfully staging all eight matches including a quarter-final fixture at the venue. As the pain of T&T’s World Cup qualification failure began to ease, I received a correspondence from FIFA informing me that I had been selected to join the FIFA pool of media officers to serve at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. So from wondering how on earth would I make it back to South Africa in 2003, I was now preparing for two back to back trips in 2010. First up was the FIFA Workshop in Sun City in February of 2010, an exhilarating three days of preparations and meeting of all other FIFA staff members for the highly anticipated spectacle that would follow in June. It was my second visit to Sun City as back in 2003 we had the pleasure of stopping for a few hours for a lunch gathering. The luxurious entertainment was the centerstate that welcomed representatives from all 32 participating teams, along with FIFA staff for the Team Workshop which took place between 22-24 February. I recall arriving with other  guests gathered in a traditional African Boma tucked deep in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. The workshop was billed as a crucial meeting of head coaches, team managers and general secretaries and is a mandatory appointment for the official and technical specialists, including media officers, security managers and team doctors. It provided a detailed introduction and insight for the teams and officials on every aspect of the tournament organisation. This workshop was also aimed at everyone who would play a key role in the staging of the World Cup and because of that it brought us back to the essence of football, back to the field of dreams. While I was there in a different capacity, the occasion brought back delightful memories for me as I had experienced something similar as a member of the Trinidad and Tobago backroom staff as the press officer for a similar Teams workshop in Dusseldorf, Germany in 2006. The proceedings in Sun City were characterized by high spirits and a celebratory atmosphere amongst coaches; the very same men who would later lead their teams into battle for football’s biggest prize. The main team workshop saw 19 coaches and representatives from all 32 countries sit down and discuss key matters. Germany’s Joachim Low, England’s Fabio Capello, Brazil’s Dunga, Carlos Queiroz (Portugal) and Raymond Domenech (France) were just some of the coaches in attendance. Overseeing the team workshop was an expert panel including FIFA Executive Director of Competitions Jim Brown and Head of Refereeing José Maria García-Aranda. On my side, the FIFA head of media Alain Le Blang led the media operations workshop which lasted for just under three days. The workshop media activities commenced on Monday 22 February at 10am with the opening of the media centre but those activities were only available for media representatives accredited before the deadline, which had now been closed. The media officers received their match assignments and got to interact with the rest of the team who would be working alongside each other at the competition. I met for the first time my traveling companion, Jochen Steinhoff who was a media officer at UEFA and today serves as one of FIFA’s lead media managers in Zurich.  We were assigned to work in two cities, Polokwane and Nelspruit and would be floating between the two venues for all matches. The following were the teams to play in Nelspruit - Group D: Australia, Serbia; Group F: Italy, New Zealand; Group G: Korea DPR, Côte d’Ivoire; Group H: Honduras, Chile And for Polokwane, it was set to look like this - Greece, Argentina, Paraguay, New Zealand, Algeria, Slovenia, France and Mexico all playing  first round matches at  newly built state of the art venue. The France-Mexico game was one of the high profile matches earmarked for the city. Another mouth-watering clash would see Paraguay take on New Zealand, whilst the other interesting encounter would see Greece go head to head with Argentina. Already Jochen and myself were buzzing about having Diego Maradona (then head coach) and Leo Messi playing at our venue. There was some other items grabbing the international headlines that week as FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke had said to the media that South Africa still wasn't ready to host the World Cup. With barely three months remaining before the event, it was reported that organisers still faced problems with Soccer City — the incomplete Johannesburg venue for the opening match and final — filling stadiums, and handling the intense scrutiny on Englands proposed training camp. “If the question is 'Could we host the World Cup tomorrow morning?' the answer is no,” Valcke said on the Tuesday after the workshop meeting in Sun City. By the time June had come around, the objective was clear. As part of the team selected to perform  FIFA Communication tasks at the FIFA World Cup, I was expected to perform my  duties as efficiently as possible.   I had in my possession the FIFA Communications handbook which contained many chapters mainly dedicated to the crucial media operations work of us FIFA Media Officers (FMO’s). It was made clear to us that it was important to all people involved to be informed on the overall communication and how the different services were linked to each other. The quality of service provided by the FIFA Communication team would be  based on the following: Preparation:  For FIFA  it was important that all communications people had the same background information and approach problems on the basis of the common policy outlined in the handbook. Flexibility: our primary function was to help the media do their job under the best possible conditions, which may sometimes involve bending our own rules; we were to do this at your own discretion, but make it clear that we  were making an exception which should not become a rule. Co-operation: as a FIFA Media Officer, were had to form a team of our own, but would also work in close co-ordination with the Venue Media Officers of the Local Organising Committee, a number of entities from FIFA’s Communications & Public Affairs Division and FIFA Marketing, as well as with our colleagues from Deltatre, FIFA Broadcaster Servicing Team (FBST) and the Host Broadcaster team (HB). Commitment: the success of the competition’s media operations and overall communication required total commitment from all involved. Team spirit: success is only possible as a team. It was not about personal rewards. Mistakes happen – however, the point is never whose fault it is, but rather ‘how do we solve it?’ Remember – only those people who never do anything don’t make mistakes. An lastly, Enjoyment. We were told  the more we enjoy our work, the better we would perform, and vice-versa. I had to work closely with Wolfgang Resch who  was the FIFA Media/Communications Manager – responsible for the overall media operations in the venues and operations for various press conferences such as the Organising Committee and Presidential events. I had worked with Wolfgang on my first FIFA appointment in Nigeria a year earlier and we later went on to also work at the 2013  FIFA Under 20 Men’s World Cup in Turkey. He was a perfect model and pillar of support throughout.  The rest of the FIFA team comprised of individuals such as Walter De Gregorio as FIFA Director of Communications & Public Affairs, Nicolas Maingot as his deputy and Pekka Odriozola as Head of Media Department who were all always very supportive and provided advice and guidance whenever necessary. Maingot had been employed by FIFA as a media officer since 2001, previously holding a similar position at the French football association (FFF). We worked together at the 2001 FIFA Under 17 Men’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago when I was attached to the Local Organizing Committee and served as media officer of the Trinidad and Tobago team. The role  of a FIFA Media Officer (FMP) included overseeing all media ticketing at the venue, coordinating immediate post-match interviews with coach and players, moderating the press conferences and with the overall responsibility for all media at the venue.  Unlike FIFA Youth World Cups where there was one FIFA Media Officer overseeing a venue as had been the case when I served at the U-17 Finals in Nigeria, FIFA assigns four media officers for Senior World Cups. So my team included two well experienced veterans from UEFA in Frits Alstrom and Andre Franceoli who had years of experiences and a combination of ten World Cups between them. These two men were the senior FMOs and in some ways like the professors to the younger ones like myself and Jochen. Stacey Gruen of the United States was also part of the team in Nelspruit while Gordon Watson of New Zealand teamed up with us in Polokwane. The other Media officers from Concacaf who were selected  among the final 37 for the 2010 World Cup included Steve Torres, Michael Johnson, Bryan Chenault, Carlos Guzman, Richard Scott, Mariana Soto, Stephana De La Torre. It was clear to understand that we had to be careful with who we were conversing and passing information to as it was obvious that there was attention from everywhere for the world’s biggest sport event and there would be some who would look to create stories by any means necessary. Odriozola said to us, “Unfortunately, we have already seen cases where media have been speaking with FIFA representatives at the hotels without introducing themselves as media and later those private conversations have been published. We would like to remind you once again to be very cautious when you are speaking with people that you do not know, even when you think it is a casual conversation.” That piece of guidance has stuck with me ever since and I’ve always passed it on to event staff since then. Communication with FIFA.com was also a key part of our operations. We were emphasised upon  to not hesitate to pass on interesting or quirky details we’d learn about anything connected to the competition to any of the FIFA.com editors. They always welcome any idea for a story and the FMO’s had a unique relationship with the teams and stadium personnel, and sometimes some really great stories come out of what only we would see as FMOs A major part of any FMO’s job is to provide as much information as he reasonably can. We had to always try to stay informed of developments in and around the  World Cup in order to be able to pass on this information quickly and accurately.  The response “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out” is infinitely better than giving the wrong answer, we were advised. Additionally  there were  inevitably a number of questions which were best avoided or which, for political reasons, should be passed on to the FIFA head of media.  In case of a delicate issue like a doping case or suspensions, statements would only be given from the FIFA Headquarters. All FMOs were  encouraged to communicate with each other on matters that directly concern them on a bilateral level, for example to keep each other informed of latest team and match news, and of problems and solutions that have arisen. We were also advised to consult the other FIFA communications people in their respective field of responsibility ( FIFA.com , etc). This was of particular importance before the third round group stage matches and the knock-out phase. After each matchday, when teams were changing venues, I had to provide a  a short update on the teams at my venue (main contact, languages at press conferences, general media following the team, challenges, etc.). The file was confidential and was to be circulated to all FMOs. All FMOs received South African mobile phones during their stay and  within the stadium. The FMOs in each venue was equipped on match-days with headset walkie-talkies, sharing the same channel as the LOC media staff.  In addition, the FMOs were in regular meetings with the  venue General Coordinator as well as the rest of the FIFA staff at my venue in areas such as Marketing,  Security, Protocol,  VIP and Hospitality, Travel and Accommodation, Venue Management, Venue Broadcast etc. These ongoing interactions proved to valuable to my future understanding and execution of general operations in the staging of football matches and events both at the interntional and local levels. The non-matchdays  in-between games were also hectic at the venues as the FIFA media centre remained opened and provided all local and international journalists with a facility from which to operate. And the list of media was constantly changing as new teams arrived to play matches. The batch of of media volunteers from the South Africa Local Organising Committee were enthusiastic and disciplined. They were keen to carry out their duties and it was joy working with them. I had a responsibility to ensure they understood the operations and executed diligently but we also had to ensure they enjoyed every moment and could take the experience with them for the remainder of their lives. “It’s a privilege and honour to be one of the FIFA media officers at the World Cup. This is really a great recognition for my work so far, which is why I am grateful to colleagues in FIFA who appointed me, but also to everyone in the Federation who supported me. At the same time, the confidence that I received, brings a great responsibility, but this is another challenge that I am very happy about”, said Slavica Pecikoza for the official site of the Federation. This was the third World Cup for her, and there were only few persons who had the opportunity to see the world’s largest football festivals from three different angles, as a journalist, a team press officer and now as a FIFA media officer. LOC communications manager Tumi Makgabo in her presentation on ‘The Road Ahead’, highlighted that the key players were the host cities themselves. She emphasised: “This is not just about South Africa, but about the continent and we are in the process of engaging with stakeholders across the continent.
In turn, Tim Modise, head of the LOC Communications Portfolio, said that the 2010 FIFA World Cup presented an opportunity to collaborate with all stakeholders in a dynamic partnership based on integrity and excellence. He outlined the principles of the broad strategy of the LOC: South Africa is merely a stage of the African World Cup: the rest of the continent is the theatre and rest of continent must see and experience the world cup. “This is an African Celebration and must be presented through sports, arts and culture, showcasing our unique history and heritage.” We as media officers for FIFA liased closely with the LOC Media on a daily basis during the entire toirnament. The key objectives of the LOC’s media strategy was, To promote the FIFA world cup and host a world class event. Promote African excellence. Legacy development of the continent. Promote the FIFA message of peace and fraternity of nations in the spirit of fair play. To communicate professionally and effectively. Position the country and continent as world class destinations where excellence is promoted and celebrated. Communication messages should instill pride and confidence in our people. South Africa’s status in international spheres of tourism and investment was significantly bolstered by the successful staging of the World Cup in 2020 and it was indeed an honour to serve at this once in lifetime first World Cup on African soil. As LOC spokesperson Rich Mkondo put it, "the World Cup was never designed to “cure social ills”. It may, however, serve as a catalyst for development and economic upliftment. It was also a simple opportunity for the world to sit back and enjoy 30 days of the beautiful game.

Technology's effect on Football

Technology's effect on Football

Perfect referees are a football's fan’s nightmare. By Jacob Stern Well, that didn’t take long.
Less than two minutes into Sunday’s World Cup opening match, between Ecuador and the host country, Qatar, the Ecuadorians won a free kick just beyond half field. Their left back lofted a dangerous ball toward goal, Qatar’s keeper came sprinting off his line to punch the ball away, and one of Ecuador’s center backs leaped to challenge for it with his head.

From there, pandemonium: Several players collided; the ball shot straight up in the air. Caught in no man’s land, the keeper flailed at it and missed. The center back then flung himself into the air and executed a sort of flying roundhouse kick to guide the ball to Enner Valencia, Ecuador’s all-time leading scorer, who was waiting to nod it home.
Gooooaaaal! The Ecuadorian fan section exploded. The players knelt in a circle, raised their heads to the sky, and thanked God. The tournament was truly under way! … except that it wasn’t.
If you’re a football fan, you know what came next, though you might have hoped it wouldn’t come so soon. The goal, it turned out, was actually under review. For what? No one knew yet. All television audiences were shown was the inscrutable face of the referee as he took instructions from his assistants back in the replay room. After the celebrations had ended, and the TV broadcast had replayed the goal from four different angles, and the commentators had analyzed the whole sequence of play, the ref ruled out the apparent goal for offside. No gooooaaaal. This did not make fans happy. Ecuadorians in attendance rubbed their fingers together in the “pay me” gesture, seemingly to suggest that the Qataris had bribed the referee. Online, accusations of corruption flew left and right . Conspiracists had a field day. Some people simply expressed confusion about the call, or disbelief. Others pointed out , sanctimoniously, that the ruling was, in a technical sense, the right decision. But in a broader, more meaningful sense, it was not. If anything, it crystallized everything that is wrong with Video Assistant Referee, soccer’s still relatively new and still highly controversial instant-replay system. The sport has lost sight of the whole point of officiating—and of sports.
Compared with major American sports, soccer was late to the party on video review. The NFL adopted it way back in 1986, the NBA did so in the early 2000s, and the MLB followed suit a few years later. When soccer finally got around to instituting video review, in 2018, it did so in just about the worst, most ham-handed way possible. Decisions took eons to arrive and were not nearly as precise as they pretended to be. Fans had zero transparency about what was happening. Long-standing rules that had seemed simple enough in the pre-VAR days took on quantum-mechanical levels of complexity when subjected to frame-by-frame scrutiny. Every week brought a fresh outrage. The past four years have smoothed out some of those early kinks. Offside calls are now hyper-accurate and semiautomated. And VAR really has done some good: It has eliminated the worst officiating mistakes and ensured that we will not see another hand of God–type abomination , in which a particularly egregious bit of foul play somehow goes unspotted and changes the course of a match. Even so, you’d be hard-pressed to find a soccer fan who thinks VAR is great as is. The Ecuador-Qatar decision is a clear example of why. It was, in the narrowest, most annoying sense, the correct decision. To the naked eye, or even to those watching a television replay, the infraction was virtually invisible amid the chaos. But VAR spotted it.
Congratulations, officials—you got it right. But for what? Sports are, in the end, entertainment, and officiating must always be a balance between accuracy and watchability. If the former were our only and ultimate concern, we would put every potential infraction under the microscope … and the game would be utterly unwatchable.

The plays that officials review—that they ought to review—are the ones where the call, if allowed to stand, would seem genuinely unfair. No one (except maybe the opposing team’s fans) likes to see a legitimate-looking goal disallowed. When Valencia’s header found the net, he and his teammates did not delay their celebration. The Qatari players did not turn to the referee in protest.

The fans did not hesitate to lose their minds. Not even the commentators seemed to have considered the possibility that the goal might not stand, and so television audiences didn’t either. No one was asking for this. Had the game proceeded, no one would have thought twice. VAR is useful only insofar as it makes soccer better for the fans. It can do that only if it can alert them that a check is under way soon enough and return a verdict fast enough that it doesn’t make celebrating goals impossible for fear of a reversal. It should rule out only those goals where, when you look back at the replay, people might reasonably think, Yeah, that’s offside . Some sort of modified tie-goes-to-the-runner rule would help here by eliminating the scourge of the “ toenail offside .” You could even give the attacker a buffer of a foot or two. To its credit, FIFA has introduced new, computerized visualizations to help justify and explain VAR’s delphic verdicts, a strategy that has worked well with tennis’s Hawk-Eye line-calling technology, which fans and players love and accept without complaint.

The visualizations are certainly a step forward. But VAR is no Hawk-Eye. For one thing, Hawk-Eye is near-instantaneous; so far in this tournament, VAR visualizations have arrived as much as 10 minutes after the fact. Even more important, perhaps, onside versus offside is not to soccer what in versus out is to tennis. When a sweet forehand appears to paint the baseline, the first thing you think is, But was it in? That is, unavoidably, what tennis is all about: in or out . Soccer fans do not spend 90 minutes wondering on or off? There are a million other variables to worry about. That is part of the fun and complexity of soccer. And that is how it should be. Less than 15 minutes after having his opener disallowed, Valencia scored again, then went on to double Ecuador’s advantage another 15 minutes later. The match finished 2–0. This almost surely will be just the first of many VAR controversies during the 2022 World Cup. (Anyone see the first half of that Argentina game?) If you thought this one was complicated or ambiguous, just wait until we get a VAR decision that hinges on a referee’s interpretation of “ phase of play .” Sunday’s decision, thankfully, ended up being inconsequential. The next one might not be.

Don't blow Media Ops

Don't blow Media Ops

The more you experience, the more you learn, the more you want to keep improving.
My entry into local football began back in 1997 and my journey through the ranks afforded me a wide range of opportunities to work with and for some of the best in the business both in terms of team dynamics from coaches to players and personalities in the media and governing bodies.

There have been some unpleasant observations. One of the biggest was the lack of preparation local coaches put into their press conferences and media interviews. Remember these are the individuals who preach preparation,game planning, what's winning about, football is life etc. It made no sense that these same people were at times underprepared for something so important to their overall success, but letting others dictate the content and flow of the interview and the message that would be going out to the world.

It is apparent that coaches continue to squander opportunities to position their programs, improve their professional image, and maximize the experience of the players and teams they work with and develop. And it’s not difficult or time-consuming. It’s simply a matter of making the time to prepare for the media.

We see it everyday on the television and social media. The best coaches I've worked with, I’ve seen often prepare for interviews without even realizing that’s what they’re doing. They mentally prepare a short list of messages they want to convey, and then do so repeatedly throughout an interview, often finding ways to bring the interviewer back to the subjects and points they want to reinforce.

My period with Leo Beenhakker between 2005-2006 taught me a lot not only about his approach but also what I as a press officer needed to do. Following his first set of matches against Guatemala and Costa Rica in the World Cup qualifiers, he began insisting that I bring possibly every bit of information that was out in the Press on our players and the opponents. This was part of the homework for getting ready for interviews or press conferences. Before every press day or media briefing during the training camp in Rotenburg leading up to our matches at the 2006 World Cup and then for each match, he wanted to know what the major networks and publications were saying about our team, our opponents and our matches. He also wanted to know what the opposing coaches said to the press that week about the upcoming games and when necessary, what our players were also saying to the press. It gave him a better sense of understanding how to craft his statements and what to be prepared for.

And I'll say this, if someone of the calibre of Beenhakker who had coached Holland, Real Madrid and Ajax saw the need to do that amount of prep for the media, then why is it difficult for local coaches in the industry to do the same.

One on ones, social media blogs and media briefings are among the most common methods to communicate the message. Media interviews arguably reach the greatest number of casual fans to whom coaches want to communicate and serve as an ideal opportunity to persuade “swing voters” to support their team and program in good times and, more importantly, bad. It’s the opportunity to continually convey an image, both the coach’s and his or her program; what is the program’s culture and philosophy, what is special about these players. This is what builds premier programs and coach's reputations over time. And a coach should not waste these windows.

While it's good to instill confidence in your team by being positive in interviews, coaches sometimes need to avoid making statements simply because it may sound good. Never mis-lead either the media or your team. Avoid using some of these lines too often - "We know what we have to do." Leave that for post-match when based on the result and performance you can instead say, "We prepared well and we knew what we had to do." That sounds lot better than saying in the pre-match that you "know what you have to do" yet the actual performance showed far from it. Stop saying "We have a group of talented players." Every team has talented players. "We are confident of a victory, This is the best group of players we've had in training." Keep that internal. "It was a great experience. It was a learning experience." This is understood and saying it in a post-game interview makes you appear to be short on words. "I believe we have a great chance of winning; going all the way." Let the performance on the park speak to this.
Let your performance show that you were "ready for the challenge and prepared as best as possible." You could not have prepared well and been ready to then be hammered 4-0 with an unflattering performance.

There are certain occasions with the media you can explain in-depth about your program, strategies, overall approach and preparations. These are good for full-length one on one interviews, podcasts, shortfilms and some press briefings. You do not want to be too detailed in pre-game press conferences. The least said the better. While the media will press you to give more juice, always be careful about what the opponent has access to.

Timely One-on-One print interviews provide an opportunity for coaches to go deeper and expand on topics that will better convey their philosophies and program culture, leading to more fan support and interest. With the Secondary Schools League and the Elite League coming up, coaches will be well advised to spend some more time preparing for the media.

We can go on much further on topics like these. Feel free to send me an email for more insight and read more in future columns here or www.pushinglimits.net

The demands of Travel for Sport Teams

The demands of Travel for Sport Teams

by Shaun Fuentes Travel continues to become more demanding on athletes, teams and officials as the world of sport and international travel continues to expand and evolve. Major sports teams have enjoyed tremendous growth in modern times. All teams are now traveling farther on more demanding schedules. Regional cricket and football teams are up and down more than in past years with the different regional series and Concacaf Nations League. Transportation requirements have become tremendous, and each management team needs to be aware of the various means and quality of airline and ground transportation service. In some of the larger nations and states, competition among airlines for sports team bookings is intense, and service is top quality due to the competition. Package offerings are now available as several of the large airlines have branched into the hotel business which is something airlines in the Caribbean have not exactly moved into. Traveling with a team, a football team in particular presents specific members of staff with unique challenges of ensuring the team performs optimally on match day and has a build up with as little obstacles as possible. These include the team managers, physicians, physiotherapists and media officer who has the responsibility of ensuring communication within the team and for the public is timely, precise and efficient. Being organised is crucial and having a clear understanding of what is needed by the traveling party has to be the starting point. The coronavirus has thrown up new challenges which is why it’s important to have healthy and cordial relationships with various parties from hotels, the host organisations, government and healthy agencies both at home and destination as well as travel agents and airlines. Communication becomes key here. When standard travel issues pop up, you’re not left stranded with last minute flight or hotel changes or having to go on your knees for visas or travel passes. The team doctor has the enormous task of ensuring they anticipate avoid or overcome all the possible obstacles that can adversely affect the preparation and performance. This requires meticulous planning and execution with a lot of proactiveness. Preparing for an away match has always been the bigger of the challenges but now even matches at home can be tedious due to the amount of overseas players coming from various destinations. The health risk profile of the country being traveled to or from, the availability of nearby medical institutions, availability of flights as well as alternative options in the air, climatic conditions, the state of the hotel and training camp proximity between venues; level and mode of transportation, and security matters are just those at the top of the list. Being equipped with all the relevant information at least 7-10 days before a trip is ideal but sometimes information can still be challenging to confirm up to a day before departure. Footballers have always struggled with long flights in cramp positions and the smaller federations or clubs are not always able to afford the business class or extra leg space seating.Some also have to take the option of one or two connecting flights to get to their final destinations which can sometimes see travel time spanning anywhere from 7-14 hours for what could be a three hour journey, It was only during the final stages of the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign that the T&T European-based players, perhaps with more bargaining power due to winning results, were able to successfully demand business class travel for flight upwards of 6 hours. During the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign for qualifying and warm-up matches, traveling through Panama City for connections became such a norm, that the T&T FA had developed a relationship with one of the restaurants in the airport in order to accommodate the entire team for meals in a reserved space whenever the travel included a lengthy lay over. The manager also has to ensure that travel documents and passports are in order. Expiry dates and visas continue to be a challenge for teams today. Most times a final selection is not confirmed up to 5 days before scheduled departure. Then we come to the luggage aspect. Football and cricket teams travel with a huge amount of gear and equipment, not to mention personal baggages of the traveling party. Different airlines offer varying weight and baggage fee options which means teams always have to have contingency funds on hand at all times. Laundry service around the team hotel is also necessary as sometimes the cost for laundry at the hotel can be too much for the budget. Second option training pitches is always good to have. Not all teams are able to have advance party of one or two persons traveling which would obviously make arrivals that bit smoother. According to Sello Motaung. FIFA medical officer and honorary part-time university lecturer, some general topics that may serve well when being covered prior to travel include hygiene principles, counteracting jet lag effects, nutrition and hydration strategy and travel plans and destination details which most times is important for athletes psychological preparedness and peace of mind. Responsible behaviour is also important for destinations. This entails safety issues, professional behaviour, following protocols, understanding and respecting cultures and laws, and yes, protection against sexually transmitted disease and criminal activity. Of course having the knowledge is one thing but the key is execution and this involves having a cooperative staff willing to go the extra mile backed up by a fair amount of resources and support. So yes it's nice to say you get to experience different cultures and destinations, you've been here and there, your favourite food is from a place some may not travel to in their life-time. But the rigours of traveling in sport particularly if you are from the Caribbean and have to constantly move outside of the region can take its toll. But hey! The journey is never meant to be easy right.

Controlling the self-controllables.

Controlling the self-controllables.

by Shaun Fuentes Athletes and sports players who exert too much ‘self-control’ before and during competing risk hindering their sporting performance, a new study suggests.

Sports scientists at Nottingham Trent University have found that the more self-control field-hockey players were required to exert the worse their performance became, with their dribbling, passing and shooting skills all affected. The research is published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.

Self-control refers to athletes’ attempts to control their behaviours, emotions and thoughts in order to pursue their goals and relates to resisting overriding impulses or temptations.

It is often linked to positive outcomes in sport and exercise performance and could include anything which might require them to fight their natural urges.This could be exercising control over diet before competing, resisting the temptation to watch TV in order to train instead, or having to put on a different persona to undertake media interviews.

Athletes are constantly confronted with self-control demands, but previous research has delivered sound empirical evidence that athletes are not always capable of dealing with these demands. According to the strength model of self-control, individuals have a limited amount of self-control strength, which can become temporarily depleted following self-control demands (e.g., attention regulation). When self-control strength is depleted, that is, in a state of ego depletion, athletes are less persistent during strenuous physical exercise, are less likely to follow their exercise regimens, and tend to perform worse under pressure.

"Let your body go with the flow. You know you can do it. All you need is your own imagination. So use it; that's what it's for. Go inside for your finest inspiration. Your dreams will open the door." —Madonna in Vogue.

Overthinking is every athlete's nemesis. In sports, self-control comes into play when an athlete makes cerebral attempts to control his or her thoughts, emotions, and behaviors while pursuing a goal that may involve resisting temptations or overriding impulses. In small doses, self-control plays a role in sticking with a training regimen and eating a healthy diet, but too much self-control prevents me from letting go, which is key to creating flow.

The recent study by sport and exercise scientists from Nottingham Trent University reports that athletes who exert too much self-control before and during sports competitions tend to perform skilled movements with less fluidity. Conversely, not exercising too much self-control seems to up their game.

Self-control is just like a muscle. If we do not flex it, then the muscle will weaken. At first, our athletes may not know what to do with choice. But we can guide them by offering a few specific choices: “Would you rather hit off the machine or have someone bowl to you?” And to our young athletes, something as simple as “What color practice jersey do you want to wear tomorrow?” offers autonomy.

We want our athletes to take control of their careers. One important way to cultivate that control is through self-controlled learning. Granting our athletes autonomy over aspects of their learning environment enhances motivation and improves information processing regarding learning. We must allow them to “self-control the self-controllables.”

Of course anyone who has played or been involved competitive sports knows the feeling of being so frustrated with an aspect of the game or decisions made by officials , that they no longer act as themselves, and rather act on frustration and anger. Whether it comes from a ref blowing an obvious call or an opposing player performing a blatant foul on you or one of your teammates, a normally rational and unaggressive player can lose their self-control quickly. A study in 2014 by Englert and Bertrams looked at self–control depletion, focusing their study on the effects that self-control depletion has in sports. Being able to have self-control is a very important part of most competitive sports.

Understanding the effects of self-control depletion in sports may just give you the competitive edge.According to the cognitive psychology blog on the Colby community website, self-control can be defined as the process of voluntarily controlling an impulse or habitual action, such as choosing to eat an apple instead of a piece of cake when you are on a diet. Much like how attention is a limited resource, self-control is also limited in its capacity. In sports, attention is spread to many different things, and since it is a limited resource, it is difficult to pay attention to self-control while attending to so many other distractions.

Attention has often been described as a “spotlight”, and you must move the spotlight around to focus your attention on different things. In sports, that spotlight is constantly moving around, trying to focus on the most important aspect of the game. Since you are trying to focus on so many different things, you are spending much less time focusing on your self-control, and allowing it to get out of hand when presented with situations requiring utmost self-control.

Dealing with the Generation Z Athlete

Dealing with the Generation Z Athlete

"The game is the game but the method of instruction has changed tremendously. We are dealing with a new player. A player called Generation Z that is very saavy in terms of international technology,’” said local football coach and now head coach of Guyana Jamaal Shabaaz when he spoke about the recently launched TTFA A Licence Coaching Course.

"Our communications skills have got to improve... not just what we know and what we want to impart but trying to understand how does this generation of young people learn. I think this is critical in us educating ourselves going forward. This is what a course like this TTFA A License course has done for us,” Shabazz added

Today’s young athletes belong to a group known as Generation Z (a.k.a., Gen Z), or the Post-Millennial or iGeneration (Twenge, 2017). This group was born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, and is also the demographic cohort following the Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers. Generation Z youth, in general, have grown up in a completely digital environment. They were born after the advent of the Internet, growing up with smartphones, laptop computers, and iPads in their homes and schools, enabling them to possess superb technological skills. Athletes are now exposed to the best of digital technology from analytics to real time playback video apps.

Unlike previous generations, Gen Z goes through intellectual stages too quickly. They’ve always had information within reach. They’re young, in their twenties, and some have seen more football from different periods than a boomer could have seen in their entire life and all thanks to Youtube and other streaming platforms. In the end, it resumes to hours of video and Gen Z has an infinite offer which is available to them. The possibility of understanding a game, by breaking it down and understanding the player’s performance, has been within reach since they were introduced into the sports discipline.

They have tools at their disposal that not even the most experienced journalists in the past could have enjoyed. And certainly players from previous generations didn’t have such speedy access. Most players from the 70s, 80s and even 90s had to wait several weeks or even month before they could access VHS or Beta Max copies of their matches or highlights.

Critics also notice Generation Z’s shorter attention spans, need for frequent (positive) feedback, lack of independence, and increased screen time. However, Twenge (2017) also discovered that Generation Z youth are growing up more slowly, avoiding adult responsibilities such as moving out of their parents’ houses and becoming financially independent. They are also the most protected and safest generation, meaning they spend less time in direct contact with friends and loved ones, leading to the highest generational marks of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

During a recent study, stakeholders, eleven from the United States Tennis Association identified strengths of Generation Z athletes as being highly motivated and educated, having strong technology skills, desiring to know the ‘why,’ and being visual learners. The participants also cited challenges of working with this cohort of athletes, which included short attention spans, poor in-person communication skills, lack of independence, entitlement and ungratefulness, difficulties dealing with adversity, preoccupation with social media and smartphones, and complications working with their support networks (e.g., parents or other coaches).

There are a few methods identified in helping to deal with the Gen Z athlete. Explain the 'Why.' With technology and information at their fingertips, Generation Z athletes expect adults to have done their homework. Providing a quick rationale for training methods and practice plans can improve motivation and effort of young people. It also reduces the inevitable ‘why’ questions from both athletes and parents.

Be Direct. With shorter attention spans of Generation Z athletes, coaches and support staff can adapt by making their messages more direct at the start and end of training sessions and during pre-game or half-time speeches.

Focus on Quality Over Quantity. Today’s young athletes (and their parents) are more in tune with strength and conditioning techniques as well as injury prevention. Coaches and support staff can assist by being aware of overtraining and burnout symptoms and using periodization principles when scheduling training and competitions.

Communicate Effectively. While face-to-face communication is not a strength of Generation Z athletes, coaches and support staff can challenge young athletes by asking open-ended questions, using text messaging only for logistical communication, practicing face-to-face conversations in team meetings or training, and switching up the methods of communication (i.e., videos, articles, and demonstrations) to aid messaging.

The world of sport is not in crisis. But it needs to adapt if it wants to continue to attract more and more players and fans, to adapt to new social issues and to win over Generation Z.

We are seeing today that sports clubs no longer attract Gen Z. Today, young people are looking for more sociable practices, more focused on enjoyment, on new, more flexible formats. "Old style" sport is finished, with training on Wednesday evening and a match on Sunday. Generation Z wants to experiment, to try out different sports and to share everything with their friends.

Changes in consuming and practices will not happen overnight, but those involved in the world of sport should be anticipating the movement now. The biggest generation in history is also a big opportunity for everyone involved in sport. Next week we'll take a look at the Generation Z of Fans.

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