Trinidad and Tobago national hockey team coach Glen Francis is hoping that his team’s third place finish at the Pan Am Cup in Ontario Canada over the weekend will serve as a catalyst for development of the sport in T&T.
Francis, who returned to T&T yesterday with the national men’s hockey team, said his players had to overcome a lot of challenges just to be part of the tournament and hopes future teams will benefit from their success.
“It was excellent work from the guys and a lot of sacrifice from the players,” Francis told the Express yesterday.
“They sacrificed. They worked hard. We actually had to clean the pitch we trained on with our own funds and again it was a lot of hard work...no money, no nothing.
“It was really a sacrifice and in the end we got a medal and we are really happy about that,” Francis added.
“Some players took time off from their jobs and from school. Some have children and had to juggle a lot of things to attend training...it was really tough,” the coach explained.
He also noted that the players even had to raise money themselves and that they arrived in Canada for the tournament a day before having to play their first match.
“That is life but we took the negative and turned it into positive. We did not dwell on the negative too much. We reached in one day before our first game and that was unheard of in any international tournament and then we beat teams ranked higher than us and that was excellent and a real team effort.
“We took everything with a pinch of salt and when we got knocked down, we just got back up,” he said.
The coach said the Pan Am Cup was a big tournament for the team with the winners qualifying for the 2014 Men’s World Cup.
Having sacrificed so much, Francis is now hoping that future national teams will benefit from better funding.
“We did not get a medal in 40-plus years (at this Pan Am level) and now we really hope that with this one, we can get some funding to help with the development programme, which we had before but it crashed.”
Francis explained that having a working development programme is important if the sport is to grow and create a larger base of players to choose from for future tournaments.
“We need to get the programme back so we can get a good base of players coming through and bring some excitement back into hockey.
“Hockey is not one of the top sports but we have some players who are world class like Kwandwane Browne and Mickell Pierre, Akim Toussaint...these are players who can fit into any team in the world,” Francis added.
He noted that Aiden De Gannes, Cogie Butler and Kwesi Emmanuel--who was one of the youngest players in the tournament at 16 years old--as well as Marcus James were some of the players coming through past development programmes.
“It (development programmes) had a lot of benefits and we hoping more players can come through. We were fortunate to have some really talented people to get things started.
“At the start everybody wanted wins but I think the team is now becoming a dominant force in this part of the region.
“Our next tournament is next year and we would really like to get some teams here to play. We have to see what the board thinks and see what we can plan for the future,” the coach added.