T&T's men and women junior hockey teams have been given the go-ahead to compete at next month’s Junior Pan American Indoor Hockey Championship in Santiago, Chile from August 21-28.
The Junior Continental Championships will act as the qualification competition for the 2021 Junior World Cups at the end of this year.
The tournament in Chile was originally due to be completed in 2020, however, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this was not possible in all continents, with the exception of Europe.
In Chile, the seven-team Junior Men’s Championship will consist of top-ranked Argentina, USA (4th) and T&T (5th) in Pool A while Brazil, Canada (2nd), Chile (3rd) and Mexico (6th) are in Pool B.
The six-team Junior Women’s will see top-seeded Argentina, Canada (4th), and Uruguay (5th), in Pool A while sixth-ranked T&T, Chile (3rd), and USA (2nd), are in Pool B.
Reached for comment, former national men’s players, coach of the Junior men’s team, Darren Cowie and junior women’s coach Dwain Quan Chan both expressed their delight with the decision to send the two teams to the tournament as they have been in training for over a year.
Cowie, who was a member of the senior men’s team which was denied a chance to defend its Pan Am Indoor Cup title last month in the USA due to the coronavirus fears among other issues, noted that the junior players have not been mandated to vaccinate.
He said, “We have not been mandated by the T&T Hockey Board or Pan Am Hockey Federation to get vaccinated, but we still have most of the players in the team vaccinated.
“There are still some of them to get their second dose of their vaccines while we also have a few players who are under the age for vaccination."
Quan Chan echoed the views of his former national team-mate saying, “Majority of girls are also vaccinated with the exception with about one or two players who have opted against it, and the players who under the age.”
Cowie also pointed out that as part of their requirements by the host country, the players will all have to return negative PCR Test results three days before departure for the tournament and then also subject themselves to being tested on arrival in Santiago, as well as during the length of their stay.
With regards to their preparations, Cowie said, “It’s been a difficult one due to the pandemic, but this month has been a lot better for us as we now have the use of the new astro turf surface at the St James Police Barracks Training Ground in St James.
“Before this, we were training on the grass surface at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex, but the astro turf surface has a more truer run of the ball on it and it's much closer to what we will be playing on in Chile.
For the tournament in Chile, the team will be skippered by England-based Teague Marcano of English Championship Division club, Hampstead & Westminster.
According to Cowie, despite Marcano being away from the team for the past few months, he has no doubt he will re-integrate back into the team easily.
He added, “We do a lot of zoom sessions and he (Teague) is heavily involved in them whereby he also gives his input which the guys take on.
“However, our other overseas player, Liam Nieves, the son of former national player, Dean Nieves who now resides in Australia, will be unable to join us.
Cowie explained, “Australia has gone back into lockdowns due to the pandemic and there are a lot of travelling restrictions being placed on their residents, so in discussion with the staff and his parents we decided the best thing at this time was to not include him.”
On the women’s side, Quan Chan will have no such issues as he is expected to have the services of a trio of USA-based Olton sisters, Saarah, Kaitlyn and Samantha along with Felicia King, all attached to Long Island University.
Both teams will continue training at the St James Police Barracks until their departure on August 15, with the junior men training on Tuesdays (3 pm - 4.30 pm), Thursdays (4.30 - 6.30 pm) and Saturdays (9 am - 11 am) and Sundays (7 am - 9 am) while the junior women train on Mondays (4.30 pm - 6.30 pm), Wednesdays (4.30 pm - 6.30 pm), and Saturdays (7 am - 9 am), and (4.30 pm - 6.30 pm).