When Trinidad and Tobago’s women’s national team takes the field on Friday as part of the 2016 Olympic qualification process, Randy Waldrum won’t be there.
“To me, it just got to the point where I’m looking at it going, ‘they have to make some sort of commitment to the women’s program and make some sort of commitment to me,'” Waldrum told The Equalizer.
Recounting a long story of how he got this point, Waldrum explains that the bigger picture is the issue. Communication between the federation and the team’s coach has been irregular and unproductive, Waldrum said Friday. He was supposed to return to Trinidad to train the team in September, but that got pushed back to late October.
Waldrum went to Trinidad and faced logistical and travel issues while there due to changes within the federation. TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee fired general secretary Sheldon Phillips, but Phillips is back now — at least, for now — since Kee fired him without authority. This all went on while Waldrum tried to train a team which never had more than eight players at a single practice, he says.
The struggles are similar to the ones highly publicized last year before World Cup qualifying. Trinidad and Tobago came agonizingly close to making the Women’s World Cup for the first time, losing an intercontinental playoff to Ecuador in stoppage time of the second leg of the series in Trinidad.
Waldrum has worked for free through what he calls “a handshake agreement” with the TTFA. He says he isn’t even asking for money, just the authority to properly implement a plan for the next four years to get Trinidad and Tobago into the 2019 World Cup.
According to Waldrum, the federation sent him a plane ticket back to Trinidad on Monday at 11 p.m. Houston time. The flight was for Tuesday morning. And the kicker? Waldrum’s last name was spelled wrong (not the first time there has been an error on the plane ticket, he says).
Seeing the issue as never-ending and the scenario as a microcosm for bigger issues, Waldrum said he wasn’t going to come without getting something in writing that he is the team’s coach and he has some authority over to implement plans for staff and players.
But as of now, things are at a standstill with the federation. Players have been texting him wondering when he will come back, he said. And Trinidad and Tobago still has to get through a series of matches just to get to the final round of Olympic qualifying in February. Qualifying will be a longshot with only two spots available from CONCACAF.
Assuming Trinidad and Tobago beats St. Lucia this weekend, Guyana, Puerto Rico and a dangerous Jamaica team await later in the month. And T&T has a pair of games against the United States in December which could end up being very ugly if things don’t improve.
“I would’ve left a long time ago last year if it weren’t for the players,” Waldrum said. He wants to see the program move forward. He knows there is enough talent there to make Trinidad and Tobago more relevant regionally and nationally. But for now, there isn’t enough organization. Waldrum hasn’t heard back from Kee in days, as of Friday morning.
“Right now, I can’t even tell you what’s going on in camp. I’ve had no input.”
W/Warriors coach sidelined; Waldrum wants chance to fix T&T women’s game.
By Lasana Liburd (Wired868).
Trinidad and Tobago Women’s National Senior Team head coach Randy Waldrum must make do with following the “Women Soca Warriors” via newspaper reports and the social media, as poor communication and disorganisation within the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has left him on the sidelines.
Waldrum explained that the dismissal of TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips, who was instrumental in his hiring, had added to his uncertainty regarding the W/Warriors post. And now he wants an assurance about his job security before he returns to Trinidad.
The Texan, who coaches professional outfit Houston Dash, explained that he was supposed to return to Trinidad roughly three weeks ago to prepare the team for the ongoing Olympic qualifiers. But, instead, he was frustrated by intermittent communication with Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee and team manager Sharon O’Brien.
“It is the frustration of not doing things properly,” Waldrum told Wired868. “We are getting ready to play Olympic qualifiers and we are doing the same thing as the last World Cup campaign. This is no way to prepare…
“Last Sunday night, I emailed Tim Kee and said I still wasn’t being communicated with. And I said, moving forward, I need something in writing that says I will be here for the next cycle so I can prepare properly for the next World Cup.”
Waldrum, whose first national assignment in T&T came while Phillips’s father, Lincoln “Tiger” Phillips, was technical director, conceded that his new yearn for job security was at least partially linked to Phillips’ dismissal.
“I wasn’t sure if, because Sheldon (Phillips) was dismissed, Mr Tim Kee wanted to keep me on board at all,” said Waldrum, who insisted Phillips was a great asset to him here. “So I asked Tim Kee if he planed to keep me and he said ‘absolutely’ but I still wasn’t being communicated with…
“I have no way of knowing if Tim Kee would be re-elected and if a new president would come in and replace me. I have no guarantees and have been doing this voluntary.
“So, I told him it is in our best interest that I don’t come back until I have an agreement in writing.”
Tim Kee, who sacked Phillips on 20 October 2015, will stand for re-election at the TTFA AGM on 29 November 2015.
But Waldrum conceded that the Women Warriors’ problems began long before Phillips’ unceremonious and controversial exit. And he said that the national team had resorted to training with as little as seven players due to the despondence of the players since the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games in July.
“When I got back (to Trinidad) on October 16, I found that many of the players were so frustrated with how they had been treated that they had had stopped training,” Waldrum told Wired868. “Ayanna (Russell), (Dernelle) Mascall… I had to talk Patrice Superville into coming back to the team.
“We only had about seven players coming out to training and there is no way you can prepare for Olympic qualifiers and to play the United States with seven players. So the training was very poor because of that.
“I don’t know if we can even get all the players back… But I believe I can take care of this if I get the authority to do it.”
The situation forced Waldrum to draft National Under-20 players into the senior squad to make up numbers, which caused some friction with youth team coach, Jason Spence.
“I recommended Spence to be the U-20 coach when I was there and I had to go to him and tell him I had to use some of his U-20 players,” said Waldrum, “and he didn’t want to do that because he wants them to be ready for his tournament. And I am saying that it helps player development when they are able to go up a level and play and we will send them back for their qualifiers
“All three national teams (U-17, U-20 and Senior) work independently of each other and we need to have a smooth transition between the three teams. The coach would be different but it should be the same philosophy and format.
“Here, we are all over the map with what each team is dong. I need to be able to come in and correct this, otherwise we would spend another 20 years and be in exactly the same place.”
Spence insisted that he did not stand in the way of his Under-20 players representing the Senior Team but was only concerned about their physical wellbeing.
“A number of our Under-20 players had injuries and we had them in a recovery programme at the time they wanted them,” Spence told Wired868, “but we eventually allowed six of them to go and they kept four players. I raised some concerns (with Waldrum) but it was never a case of me stopping them.”
Spence explained that the failure of many senior players to rejoin the national squad has had a ripple effect which also disrupted the National Under-20 Team’s preparation.
“The state of the national programme is in a mess,” said the St Ann’s Rangers coach. “Honestly, right now I have about 10 players that I may see in training on any given day and I am getting ready for CONCACAF (competition).”
If the dispute between Spence and Waldrum could be resolved over a beer, it might take UN peacekeepers to get star players Kennya “Yaya” Cordner and former captain Maylee Attin-Johnson back into the national set-up.
Cordner and Attin-Johnson were injured at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games and are left bitter by their subsequent treatment from the TTFA. Both insisted they will not represent Trinidad and Tobago under O’Brien.
“Yaya paid for herself to go Canada to have her injuries taken care of,” said Waldrum, “and Sharon said because she flew there on her own dime, she has to fly back on her dime.
“And she only went there because the federation wasn’t taking care of her in the first place… I can go through a list of players who are not being taken care of.”
O’Brien said the problem was partly down to miscommunication although she did not elaborate.
“Kennya is an issue that we are trying to sort,” O’Brien told Wired868. “I prefer to keep that private and we will deal with that behind closed doors.
“I feel communication was bad in Kennya’s position, so I am trying to see if I can rectify that situation.”
Waldrum believes that he has been on the receiving end of some poor communication as well.
He complained that, despite nominally being the head coach, decisions were made regarding the team’s Olympic preparation with no input from him.
“My players told me they were entering a training camp on Monday but I had no idea about it and I had no plane ticket to be there,” said Waldrum. “So that really upset me and I mentioned it to Tim Kee. And his response was that he didn’t know about it either and he would get back to me. But he didn’t.
“A couple of girls were texting me and said they were having two practice sessions per day…. They hadn’t been training before and I didn’t agree that they should have two sessions per day from Monday to Thursday with a game on Friday, after not training for so long.
“I was worried about that if it wasn’t done scientifically…”
Thus far, the Women Warriors have had little problems on the field as they whipped St Lucia 6-0 on Friday and 8-1 today to saunter into the Caribbean qualifying semifinal round against Jamaica in Couva on Wednesday night.
The top three nations from Jamaica, Guyana, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago will advance to next February’s CONCACAF Olympic qualifying rounds in Hawaii. Only two CONCACAF teams will progress to the Rio 2018 Olympics.
Waldrum is concerned that the W/Warriors, who are now led by his assistant Anthony Creece, are not primed to do well in the long run.
“We are going to win against St Lucia based on our talent and not our preparation,” said Waldrum. “The game against Jamaica will be difficult and I don’t think people understand how difficult the game against America will be. You don’t train with eight players and then step on the field and play the world champions.
“I love Trinidad and Tobago like it is my own home country and we have a great chance to be a great football nation. But it is just so frustrating because we have no plan and no vision.”
The Texan revealed that, after Phillips’ dismissal, nobody else at the TTFA bothered to arrange his transport to and from training last month.
“I don’t know what the politics are that happened when Sheldon (Phillips) was released but I know he is the person I could go to to make things happen for me,” said Waldrum. “When he was relieved, I no longer had transportation to practice and I had to ask Jan Francois if she would mind taking me to and from practice. It is not something players should have to be responsible for.
“Even Maylee picked me up once and she isn’t even on the team. That would usually be the team manager’s job but Sheldon (Phillips) was the one (who arranged it) the whole time.”
It was an echo of the slipshod management that saw the women head for the US with just US$500 last year and prompted an unforgettable tweet from Waldrum, which asked the public for financial assistance.
Waldrum gave another more recent anecdote of the administrative issues faced in the local set-up.
“They sent me a plane ticket on Monday night to leave on Tuesday (for Trinidad) and it had the wrong last name,” Waldrum told Wired868. “It had ‘Waldron’. I have been a national team coach here for the last year…
“It is a little thing but it sums up the lack of professionalism.”
The W/Warriors coach admitted that it was not the first time it happened either.
“When I came in October, they had my middle name wrong,” he said. “They put my middle name as ‘Jordan’ and it is Marlon. It wasn’t even close!
“So I was able to check my bags in at the counter but, when I had to go through (airport) security, the TSA official said ‘your name doesn’t match your passport’ and they wouldn’t let me through…
“It took me an hour and 15 minutes to get a call through to the travel agency (in Trinidad) to get the ticket changed… Those things are not big things but they kind of highlight the lack of organisation.”
Waldrum says the only payment he received as Trinidad and Tobago coach was a TT$50,000 bonus from then Sport Minister Rupert Griffith and stipends paid during the CONCACAF phase of the team’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
But he insisted that he was more concerned about job stability and the authority to make changes to the structure of the women’s game here.
“I survive on my salary at Dallas because everything I do with Trinidad is free,” said Waldrum. “Obviously we all want to be paid for our professionalism, so I am not saying I don’t want to get paid. But I want to see women’s football succeed in Trinidad and Tobago and I want to see us get the resources we need to develop.
“That is where my frustrations lie and that is more important to me than the financial side of things. It is not about the money but I need to have a contract.
“I think Stephen Hart has been doing a fantastic job but if the men’s coach has a contract then the women’s coach should have a contract. And I should have some authority to make changes and ensure the program runs smoothly.
“I am just fed up with the lack of resources, preparation and respect that the women’s team gets and I need to take a stance for my players.”