Concacaf Next Play: Using Football as Pathway for Social Change
Concacaf Director of Development Jason Roberts during the Nations League Qualifying Draw

The Confederation is launching its Concacaf Next Play program, an innovative grassroots initiative to promote access and increase participation in the sport within the region. 

 

The program, which inspires the love for our game in younger generations, is a reflection of Concacaf’s new brand and its core focus areas including Unity, Football, Quality and Access. 

 

The Director of Development Jason Roberts describes the initiative as a unique platform to empower people to participate in the game, while inspiring social change through the values of football.

 

Why is Concacaf launching the Concacaf Next Play Program?

 

I think everybody will agree on the infinite lessons you learn from participating in the sport. At Concacaf, we want to ensure that we are providing more access to our game and through Next Play, we are implementing an innovative grassroots methodology to capacitate coaches and work with young people, throughout the entire process.

Initially, this is a six-week pilot project in which we will work with the government and four schools, in five countries, with five volunteers from each school who will deliver the grassroots coaching curriculum. The volunteers will also implement our Next Play methodology which encourages safeguarding young people and the importance of values you learn by playing sports, especially football. We are not talking about elite or the best children in school. This is about working with people who we believe are going to have a change in their life, while generating social change through the sport.

To ensure there is an impact in participants, over the six weeks we will monitor, evaluate and work with them on an ongoing basis. 

We are very clear that there is huge athletic potential as we have seen many success stories from the Caribbean but we are also committed to deliver on our core brand principles, including to ensure that by providing access, we are also championing the social values of football.

This is a new focus on the social value of football. We believe that by playing the sport you can change your life. Next Play is about increasing participation in the sport, while promoting its social value.

 

What inspired the Concacaf Next Play name?

 

Concacaf wants to champion the message of play next, which fits right with our pillar of creating more access for everybody including men, women, young people, anyone who just want to enjoy the game.

 

As a former international player and respected football pundit in both the United Kingdom and the Caribbean, how football changed your life?

 

Football has changed my family’s life. I have been very lucky to come from a family of athletes, including an Olympic champion and three professional footballers. As a human being, the game has made such a difference in my life, in so many ways, giving you discipline, changing the way you communicate with people.

The great thing about football is you don't have to be a superstar to benefit from our sport. I think this is a clear focus of our One Concacaf Vision and Next Play. This is not only about elite players, capacitation for footballers, coaches and managers, and creating more leagues and high-level competition for fans to enjoy the game. Football comes first and we are creating social value through it.

Through our grassroots program, we are attracting the next people that will consume our sport, players, administrators, coaches, referees, and fans. We are confident that after six weeks of implementation, Next Play will demonstrate that value and hopefully we can talk about how to magnify that support and reach out to more young people.

 

Through this program and additional key trainings, Concacaf is expanding is coaching education platform. Tell us more about it.

 

Our Development department is currently working on a comprehensive coaching curriculum, including the B license which will point towards the more amateur to professional coaches. What’s great about the grassroots coaches who will impart the Next Play Program is the opportunity to not only deliver football as a sport, but they will also focus on our game’s social value. These coaches will play a crucial role in ensuring that we can champion the social values of commitment, leadership, teamwork, and fair play.

I would like to thank the volunteers, who already work in the schools, for their time and commitment to give back to the communities by helping our Confederation to create the social equity we want through the Next Play program.

 

Concacaf is creating different avenues to further increase youth participation in the sport. What’s the impact of Next Play in youth competitions?

 

We are establishing a clear pathway not only to participate in the game by providing the opportunity for an early interaction with the sport through Next Play and with a goal of playing in competitions like the Concacaf U-15 Championship. We are generating a solid platform of opportunities to improve the game’s quality and advance at a higher level.