Backroom staff key to Reggae Girlz' World Cup success

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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Jamaica's senior Reggae Girlz and coaching staff deserve every bit of recognition flowing their way in the wake of the historic World Cup qualification.

But so, too, do the unsung heroes, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the players are in good shape before, during, and after each game.

While head coach Hue Menzies and his assistants Lorne Donaldson and Andrew Price, among others, do their part in the tactical and technical areas of the team, it was the medical team of doctor Lori-Ann Miller and physiotherapist Saundria Codling, who have been quietly fuelling the Reggae Girlz throughout their campaign.

From the journey started in Haiti until it ended with an historic third-place finish at the Concacaf Women's Championships in Frisco, Texas, recently, Miller and Codling never missed a beat when it came to the well-being of all members of the team, including the staff.

Both Miller and Codling would readily declare that they relished the experience of working with the Reggae Girlz, as they attended to each complaint with the utmost importance making sure players remained injury-free or able to train or play comfortably.

Their assiduous work in the shadows was duly rewarded, as the Reggae Girlz accomplished the feat of being the first Caribbean nation to qualify for a senior Women's World Cup to be staged in France next year.

The 64th-ranked Girlz booked their ticket via a 4-2 penalty win over Panama after playing out a 2-2 stalemate in full and extra-time at the recently concluded championship.

Physical therapist Codling, 28, who is a lieutenant in the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), has been volunteering her time with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) since 2016, and has enjoyed a close working relationship with the players.

“It was an honour and a great experience, interacting with the different personalities and the uniqueness of each player was heart-warming and I enjoyed every shared moment and I wouldn't trade it for another. The players were very professional, receptive and focused on the goals ahead of them.

“So I feel blessed knowing that God favoured us and seeing first-hand the hard work, dedication and sacrifices exuded by players and staff, makes me even more elated and proud of this accomplishment,” Codling told the Jamaica Observer.

Codling, who also holds a Diploma in football medicine from Fifa and is also a certified kinesiology practitioner, recollected the start of the World Cup quest in Haiti as the defining moment of the grit and determination the team embodied.

“I realised the girls had the potential to get to the World Cup when we were in Haiti in a stadium that was full to capacity with Haitian supporters and we were two goals down.

“But the girls were not fazed, and instead, they dug deep, worked even harder and got the result they needed. From there I know once they remained focused, nothing could stop them from pressing towards the mark,” Codling noted.

“Teamwork was demonstrated every step of the way between players, the coaching staff and ourselves as we all had the same goal in mind and worked towards it assiduously.

“So I am happy to know that we made our country and the citizens proud which adds impetus to the saying 'wi likkle but wi tallawah' and sends a profound message to a lot of persons around the world,” she added.

Miller, 29, described it as an “awesome privilege” working with players from 16 years old all the way up to 33 years old, who found ways to continuously work together as a unit, despite each player having their own unique personality.

“The experience with the girls has been amazing; they are a professional, self-motivated and driven set of girls. Their unified, resilient spirit is captivating and it has led them to where they are now as they continue to find ways of overcoming all obstacles in their way.

“It is quite difficult to finds the words to express all your feelings, when you think about what the girls have achieved thus far, but I am humbled and proud of our achievement, but not surprised because we as a group always knew we could achieve it,” The University of the West Indies (UWI) alumna shared.

“Our coaching staff is well experienced and supportive, they facilitate open communication and are respectful of differing opinions. They are more than just coaches to the girls, as their concern for each player goes far beyond their ability to play football,” she added.

Like Codling, Miller also pointed to the gutsy come-from-behind 2-2 draw with Haiti in Port-Au-Prince, which set the journey in motion as her defining moment with the team.

“My moment of belief came in the first round of qualifications in our game against the host nation Haiti, in a packed stadium and surrounding rooftops our girls overcame a two-goal deficit, silencing the crowd.

“In the minutes prior to this turnaround, the girls didn't come to the sidelines for directions from the coaches, they huddled amongst themselves and aired it all out and later did the improbable. And that is what I took as a sure sign that we would reach the World Cup,” Miller explained.

“Although the ages vary and there are differences in levels of playing experience, they all learnt from each other, whether life lessons or football skills. They each have owned their differences and have brought our motto to life, 'Out of Many One People',” she ended.

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