Growing football from the grassroots with Coach Elbert

The sounds of children at play fill the air of the field at Bodden Town Primary School. It’s quite a normal thing to hear but what’s different is this is Saturday morning and the young ones are all playing and learning about football under the watchful eyes of Elbert McLean and his assistant coaches.

The veteran coach of the Bodden Town Football Club started the grassroots initiative last year but stopped when funding stopped but he’s vowed that he will keep it alive because of the interest among children and their parents.

The weekly camp ran through September but is on hiatus now that the CUC Primary Football League is on. Coach Elbert plans to resume the sessions in January when the season ends for the youngsters.

When we stopped by on 1 October, there were about 40 children – boys and girls – gleefully embracing the sport under the morning sunshine.


“It’s been very successful so far,” McLean said. He said he would not be able to have pulled it off without the support of three prominent members of the district – current Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden, as well as former Sports Minister Mark Scotland and former MLA Dwayne Seymour. Their help has helped him provide Gatorade, water and lunch for the children each week.

“I want to thank them and all the parents for their contributions and I hope they continue to support it.” However, he said he hopes more people will come forward to help with the resources to keep the initiative going.

As Coach Elbert took a break, his assistants, Jamal McLean and Mario Berry, members of the Bodden Town Football Club, continue to work with the youngsters. They focus on the basics, including dribbling, shooting and goalkeeping. They also work on more advanced skills like keeping the team’s formation in defense.

“This is how I build my Bodden Town football programme – from the grassroots,” he explained. “So far, I’ve identified a few players that could come into my Under-13 [programme]. This is about development.”

untitled-design-77A few parents stick around to watch their children embrace the beautiful game. Among them was Denecia Anderson, who has watched her son’s love of the sport blossom through programmes like this one.

“At first, he started off not liking football and then all of a sudden, he wants to start with Coach Elbert’s training and getting more involved in football,” she said.

Ms Anderson said it was great there are initiatives like this one and reflected on the importance of the work put in by Coach Elbert and his assistants. “I think it’s great because it helps to mentor them,” she explained.


Seeing the enjoyment of the children while on the field and hearing word’s like Ms Anderson’s made Coach Elbert almost speechless – almost surprising for a man who shouts tactical orders to his Bodden Town Football Club players while they’re on the pitch during league games.

“I can’t express the feelings I get from it. The satisfaction from the kids makes me feel good,” he said before taking his trademark saunter back to the field to organise a game among the youngsters, some of whom may very well, under his tutelage, become household names when it comes to football in the Cayman Islands.

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