February 17, 2022 – Washington, D.C.
By Justin Reid – NACTM Director of Camps
Many people have asked what to expect at the upcoming U-20 Trinidad & Tobago Men’s Football Combine in Washington, D.C. from April 16-17, 2022, so we felt the need to address the expectations. But before we layout how we foresee the Combine operating which we can assure you will be nothing short of a high standard, we first want to provide a short history on what is the North America Caribbean Training Method (NATCM), how the program got started, and the most important question why are we doing this?
In late 2019 following the appointment of former Trinidad & Tobago Football Association (TTFA) President William Wallace, I, Justin Reid the NACTM Director of Camps, wrote an article and published it on the Soca Warriors website laying out a plan for the TTFA. The attached article was also shared on the blacksoccercoaches.org website labeled “Where to now? A plan for the next four years of the TTFA.”
Fast forward to what would have been year three of the plan and who would have ever thought that the TTFA would have been normalized by FIFA and that Covid-19 would have shutdown sport in the the country for nearly two years. Backtrack to 2019, the article caught the eye of then Technical Committee Chair Keith Look Loy who contacted me to help to develop a program that identifies players born in North America of Trinbagonian descent. Look Loy also reached out to Sean Powder, businessman and father of TTFA National team player and Major League Soccer (MLS) player Noah Powder, who is based in New Jersey, in addition to a former player of his Johann Contaste who was based in Washington state at the time, but has since relocated to Texas to become the Athletic Director of Idea Public Schools. Powder and I would brainstorm for weeks and we finally came up with a program that would soon be called the Talent Identification Player Pool Programme (TIPP).
Now, the concept of the TIPP program wasn’t anything new to the TTFA because several coaches based in North America had identified players of Trinbagonian descent. Anthony Lambert at Champs Academy in Brooklyn had invited then and now TTFA Technical Director Anton Corneal to Brooklyn about 6 years ago, and Wendell Moore, based in the Atlanta area had invited then U-17 Head Coach Stern John to evaluate players. However, what made the TIPP program a little different was the fact that we brought the Trinbagonian diaspora in football together to do its part to help football in Trinidad & Tobago. Within a short period of time the TIPP developed into a network of nearly 30 coaches and scouts throughout North America who would identify nearly 300 players of Trinbagonian descent from ages 11 – 19. It was a volunteer based program because the TTFA didn’t have the funds, but we were 30 volunteers who love and still love T&T so keeping up the energy of the program would not have been a problem. The program was instrumental in sending eight players from North America to the U-20 Women’s CONCACAF Qualifiers in the Dominican Republic in March 2020. However, the program was short-lived following FIFA’s normalization of the TTFA in early 2020 and the TIPP was later dissolved as scouting outside of Trinidad & Tobago was no longer a priority. So we thought to ourselves that no matter what other programs we had operating under the NACTM, we had to make the Caribbean ID program a priority especially for Trinidad & Tobago our origin even if it meant funding the launch of the program out of our own pockets.
In April 2020, two other TTFA scouts Myron Garnes, Ashton Baptiste, and I thought about how we could keep the program going in addition to promoting coaches of Caribbean descent. So we launched the NACTM. The program was meant to host camps for players of Caribbean descent, however, that model didn’t seem to be feasible as the pandemic left alot of uncertainty in not only the Caribbean but also throughout the US and Canada. In April, I was set to travel to Barbados with five college coaches to conduct a College Combine for the high school aged players in the country. However, when Barbados began shutting down so did the Combine and it never launched. So the NACTM decided to pivot not to just host Combines but to also host camps for players as young as five. In 2021, camps were hosted between Orlando, FL to Baltimore, MD serving nearly 200 players in 7 locations. This year, the NACTM has expanded to seven types of programs categorized to serve players who are in the developmental stage (5-12 year olds) and those in the competitive stage (13 years and up).
So why are we hosting the T&T U-20 Men’s Combine? Part of the TIPP initiative was to do Combines to identify players across the U.S. and Canada. However with the program disbanding, we knew that the TIPP nor the TTFA could fund such a program. So in the last year, we began soliciting sponsorships throughout the Washington, D.C. area to help fund the Combine. Those sponsorships came from both business owners with ties to Trinidad & Tobago, to those who just love visiting Trinidad & Tobago. Though challenging due to most small businesses either at a standstill or now having recovered from the damage of COVID-19 on small businesses, the NACTM was able to raise nearly $8,000 to fund this event. Meaning that unlike other Combines, it was able to keep the cost for the player low at $75 as opposed to $250 or more which most Combines may cost. To keep the Combine even more cost effective, we blocked rooms at the Rennaisance Marriott because during the Easter weekend, Washington, D.C. is very busy, well pre-pandemic, and this is mainly because of the National Cherry Blossom Festival that has returned in 2022.
The sponsorship funds also helped to purchase uniforms for each player at the Combine, pay the coaches who will be conducting the training and managing the teams, and in one case pay for a coach’s travel expenes, pay referees, in addition to purchasing a new VEO camera that uses WIFI and will broadcast the Combine via the NACTM Facebook page for those back in T&T can see the talent that is heading their way.
We vow that this Combine will be nothing short of spectacular and we will have a special surprise guest :). There will only be 42 players invited and we will split the players up into 3 teams (red, black, and white) of 14. Each player will have a numbered jersey, all of the same color shorts (black), and all of the same colored socks (black) sponsored by Squadra. Each team will have a coach who will take them through warm-ups, training for an hour, replenishment break, and games. The games will be round-robin of 30 minutes a game allowing each player to show his or her talent for up to 60 minutes on Saturday and 60 minutes on Sunday. While we can’t predict the outcome of each player and who Head Coach Angus Eve will select to travel to Trinidad & Tobago to represent the U-20 National team, we are excited for the players as this is a chance of a lifetime. Although our goal will always be to compliment the national teams with additional players who can help the teams to compete and win matches, with most of the players in Trinidad & Tobago having not played for a couple of years due to the pandemic, we expect that most of the players who represent the U-20s will be North American based. So we encourage you to click here to register and send us links to your Youtube videos or any highlights. We wish you all the best of luck and encourage you to view this as an opportunity of a lifetime. If you are fortunate enough to make the team then expect many college coaches and scouts to be at the CONCACAF Qualifiers. So show up, live in the moment, do your best, and Good Luck!