[The Nassau Guardian] Boys ECNL inaugural trip to The Bahamas deemed a success

  • August 9, 2018

The following article was originally published in The Nassau Guardian on August 7, 2018.
Written by Simba French. 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS (August 7, 2018) – The inaugural Boys Elite Clubs National League’s (Boys ECNL) national training camp wrapped up at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium this past Sunday.

A total of 33 players and five coaches made the trip down to The Bahamas and they were engaged in training sessions and exhibition games against Bahamas Football Association’s (BFA) national squads. They played The Bahamas’ under-17 boys and a select men’s national squad on Friday night. The men’s team is preparing for the League of Nations that begin in September. The under-17 boys are preparing for competition in early 2019.

The Boys ECNL coaches were involved in community projects every day, holding coaching sessions for local youth players. On Sunday, there were about 70 players who made it out to the coaching session.

In the exhibition games, the Boys ECNL ‘A’ Team defeated The Bahamas’ under-17 boys, 2-1; and the select men’s national squad lost 4-2, to the Boys ECNL ‘B’ Team.

Jen Winnagale, Boys ECNL Commissioner, said that it was important to offer additional experiences to the boys as this was their first year of the boys’ arm of the ECNL.

“Being able to bring an elite group of players down here from the Boys ECNL is incredible. Being able to play the national teams is something that is unique and very exciting. The players were very excited to show their skills on an international stage. It was an incredible journey. First camps, especially in a new destination, there is always something to be learnt and improve on and we really enjoyed it. We look forward to continuing to improve what we can bring to the table and just offering resources and continue to reach out and strengthen our relationship with the BFA and the youth.”

Mika Elovaara, Boys ECNL Director, said: “We are tremendously grateful for the wonderful hospitality by the BFA. The hospitality and the friendliness of everyone that we have encountered and talked with has been great. It is tremendous to be able to bring some of the best boys players in the United States to this facility, and it is a privilege for the boys to be here and hosted by the BFA.”

The Boys ECNL has three platforms that are at the heart of what they do. They have a competitive league from the under-13 through the under-19 age groups. Secondly, they have a player development platform which encompassed the national training camp and regional Player Development Project (PDP). The third platform is coaching and education. By coming over here, they touched all three of their platforms while providing opportunities to Bahamians.

Elovaara praised the logistics of the weekend.

“We were very happy with everything. Everything has worked exceptionally well when it comes to just the logistics,” he said. “This is always a challenge when you go to a place you have never been before. You take some level of risk in terms of how our schedule is going to work out, how’s the food, the nutrition, recovery, the main things that are very important in the holistic development of the player and the execution of everything that we do. That was phenomenal.”

Sean Bubb, who took part in both the Boys ECNL and BFA summer camps, said it was great to see the local youth come out to grasp the training sessions.

“We did grassroots clinics every day for any child who was interested. They were trained by some of the best coaches in the United States. It’s been fun seeing their faces and seeing what they have done. It was a no-brainer. I think this is the start of something incredibly special, the start of something that will only grow and will impact more children in a positive manner.”

The visiting players all said they had a great time and enjoyed the experience here in The Bahamas.

Jose Gellegos, an attacking midfielder who plays with Classics Elite out of San Antonio, Texas, said: “It was great. I am blessed to come out here and play against the Bahamian national team. I liked the experience. It was a good challenge for us. It was just beautiful to come out here and play.”

Chris Geddis, a holding midfielder who plays with Ohio Premier out of Columbus, Ohio said: “It is a blessing. It is beautiful here. It was the first time I played in a stadium like this. It has been an experience of a lifetime. I will work on a few things that I learnt here and use it next year. The Bahamas’ under-17 team is really athletic and certainly the ECNL team is really challenging.”

Elovaara thought the two games were very challenging.

“The games in our view were an excellent showcase of the beautiful game with two competitive match-ups. Both games were even. They both had good goal-scoring opportunities. We saw some nice goals, good defending and some really good saves.”

Carl Lynch, a consultant with the BFA, said: “We can see the rebirth of soccer coming in terms of kids now being really focused on developing their game based on seeing these kids play. This is the first event and hopefully we’ll have many more of these to come and speaking to some of the coaches, they would love to have a couple of our kids join the program and work out with their kids. It was a fantastic opportunity.”

As for the future, Winnagale said they will evaluate the weekend and go from there.

“As far as this camp, with anything, whenever it’s a first time in a certain location or in this case, the first event of this nature, we source out positives like what are the improvements from our end; is the location ideal, and what’s the environment that we are putting the players and coaches in. Our platforms and values are stapled into any decision that we make. If we had to choose right now it is very positive and we want to continue to grow. We already have plans to increase the size of this event as far as players and coaches coming. I don’t have a definitive answer, but short term we would love the opportunity to come back and just take it to the next level. That’s part of our DNA.”

Elovaara said that there is no plan to have this camp in different parts of the world. They would love to build on this experience and make it better the next time around.

“I think this has been an exceptional experience. It has been an experience that we hope to build on. We’ve made some new friends and formed some really exciting new relationships here, and I think the shared vision of the BFA and the ECNL is an exciting one. It is very unique. At the end of the day players in The Bahamas and the ECNL will benefit from this. I cannot imagine how a first-time national training camp in a new country could have been any better.”

Bubb said he has only heard positive things from both sides and he hopes it is something they will definitely build on. The possibility of bringing the Girls ECNL national camp here is a realistic one once there is an opportunity that makes sense for the girls to come. Bubb said it will be an internal discussion for the ECNL.

Boys Elite Clubs National League (Boys ECNL) was founded to provide a top level, club-based development, training, and competition platform for youth male soccer players in the United States. The mission of the Boys ECNL is to improve the landscape for players in the United States through innovative, player-centered programming that raises standards and improves the player experience in all aspects of the game.

The league’s head office is located in Glen Allen, Virginia, USA. There are 71 clubs that play in the league from seven conferences all over the country.

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