Interviews

Conversation about the "Reggae Girls" with Lavern Deer, President of the Jamaica International Female Football Development (JIFFD) Lavern Deer

Written by Denise Lee

This week we have a conversation with Lavern Deer, President of the Jamaica International Female Football Development (JIFFD). She is an advocate for the Jamaican Women’s Football team, the Reggae Girls. JIFFD has held several fundraising events for the “Reggae Girls” as they make a push to qualify for the World Cup.  Here is our conversation with Lavern. 

Q. Are any of the Reggae Girls playing on professional football teams?
There are at least three Reggae Girls playing professionally now.
Two in Iceland (Shakera Duncan & Christina Murray) and one in Kazakhstan (Omalyn Davis)
All three have been playing together since 2006 when they represented Jamaica at the Under 20 levels on to the senior level. 

Q. How close is the current team to qualifying for World Cup?
There are two junior world cups which will be played in 2014. The Under 17 in Costa Rica and Under 20 in Canada. The Qualification process for both have just started with Jamaica set to host the CONCACAF Under 17 finals in November meaning they will not play any Caribbean qualifiers. The Under 20s will however bow into qualifying action in late July at the Caribbean (CFU) level hosting Group 4 of the Caribbean first round. The top two teams from that will go to the CFU finals from where three teams will qualify for the CONCACAF Finals to be played in the Cayman Islands in January. Three teams from the CONCACAF Finals will qualify for the FIFA world cup in Canada next year. Jamaica has a good chance in that tournament as one of the so called big three Canada, USA and Mexico will not participate Canada being host of the FIFA World cup. This gives Jamaica a chance to capture that third spot and finally qualify for a world cup.

Q. How is the team currently supported financially?
Currently the women teams are supported by the JFF through proceeds from the Reggae Boyz which makes money to support itself and all nine teams operated by the JFF. No qualifying for senior FIFA world cups means little money for the JFF as countries national federations worldwide make money from the senior team qualifying for world cups and marketability of the senior team which is usually based again on whether they have been qualifying for world cups. Corporate sponsors and government of Jamaica also assist the JFF but the JFF has been running in serious deficit since the early 2000s now reportedly reaching way in excess of 100 million dollars. This means tokenism for the girls/women’s programs. It is now hoped however that JIFFD will be that Godmother or Godfather which will ease the burden of the JFF as far as the women’s program goes.

Q. What are some of the most pressing needs for the team?
 Funding of local training camps which would encompass food and to some extent medical supplies… Funding of overseas camps which would encompass, Airfares, Accommodation, Food, ground transport etc. Assistance in dealing with expenses to participate in tournaments such as airfare, medical supplies, and to a smaller extent accommodation and per diem for players. ( note when teams travel in football the tournament organizers generally takes care of the accommodation, transport and food  for 25 persons. No serious team in football however travel with less than 30 persons which will comprise 22 players, a coach, assistant coach, goalkeeper coach, physical trainer, masseuse, team doctor, team manager, equipment manager and Head of Delegation who is the mandatory political figure representing the national association (country). Serious teams like the USA, Canada and Mexico will even have sports psychologist, press officers and physiotherapist. All the extras that are over the 25 must be financed by the federation. Jamaica women football teams generally travel with the 25 cutting players to like 18, no goalkeeper coach, no equipment manager, certainly no psychologist despite well needed more times than not.

Q. Tell us about the Jamaica International Female Football Development Inc. and the organizations efforts to get the Reggae Girls to World Cup 2014 & 2015?
JIFFD is a 501 (C) 3 Not-for-Profit International organization  who focus on a holistic development approach for girls and young women, ages 6 through 24, which, essentially, creates a perpetual pipeline of better prepared female talent to become future Reggae Girlz. The organization engages the Jamaica Diaspora and business who may want to target the Caribbean market. JIFFD works with elected officials, Business Chambers and community clubs to establish a social and economic development engine. Our objectives include : 
 

Objectives

  • Strengthen Reggae Girlz Program.
  • Attract International Awareness and support from Corporate, Government, NGOs and general public.
  • Provide international playing experience for Reggae Girlz.
  • Increase participation in female football and recreation programs, particularly within Jamaica Inner-cities.
  • Increase girls’ access to educational, health and social development support, to foster a more holistically developed woman.

May 24th & 25th 2013 JIFFD facilitated and hosted its  first International Try-outs here in South Florida; with  over two dozen under 17 and under 20 girls wishing to dawn Jamaica’s National colors showed up to parade their skills for Technical Coordinator of the National Women’s Football team Vin Blaine. Coach Vin said he was very pleased to see how well the girls matched-up amongst the advance skills and talents of the local South Florida Women’s Team, FC Surge. He was impressed with the level of discipline the girls portrayed on and off the field.
“I have to commend JIFFD for a job well done in organizing the try-outs for girls with an interest in playing for Jamaica. The try-outs were conducted in a very professional manner. As coach, I am looking forward to fostering an ongoing relationship with JIFFD  in an effort to improve Jamaica’s women’s football program.” Says Coach Vin Blaine.

Q. How long has your organization been involved with the Reggae Girls and what are some of the success stories?
We started this venture March 2012, When I visited Jamaica I  had the pleasure of meeting some of the young girls, talking with them to better understand some of the issues they face as young female footballers. I was very impress with their determination to play ball however what moved my heart was the interest they expressed in getting a scholarship hoping to someday become a professional footballer and better contributors to society.

From that point forward we made a vow to help. After returning to the US and began to talk to people about the Reggae Girlz I realized most Jamaicans outside of Jamaica didn’t know Jamaica have a National Women Football (Reggae Girlz) program. Thus JIFFD was formed, followed by one year of intense campaigning to bring awareness to the Reggae Girlz.

The purpose of the Awareness Campaign is to highlight the current issues the Girlz are facing, including, relatively low, or lack of awareness, significantly less than desired community support and Less than adequate corporate and NGO support and sponsorship.

The campaign was launched February 2013 where we spearheaded an awareness conference. At that conference at the Sheraton Suites in Plantation, Florida, we pulled together an impressive array of city and state officials, congressional representation, representatives from corporate America, Jamaica government officials and leading figures in Jamaica’s football.

Representing the government of Jamaica was minister with responsibility for sport Natalie Neita-Headley, and the Jamaica Football Federation {JFF} president Captain Horace Burrell and chairwoman of the JFF Women’s Committee Elaine Walker-Brown and coordinator of the women’s program, Vin Blaine.


Q. Do you believe there is inequality in how the Reggae girls are supported vs the Reggae Boys?

I wouldn’t say there’s inequality in the Jamaican Football System; I would more say there’s lack of awareness for the community to embrace women football in Jamaica. I believe with a sustainable marketing plan gear towards girls playing the game including a social development component and the full support of the media we would have an attractive package for sponsors to invest their sponsorship dollars in our girl’s football program.

Q. What are some of the initiatives your organizations has taken assure the continued development of women’s football in Jamaica?
 Following an extensive research and survey from the Jamaican Diaspora, JIFFD has designed a program which will assist with the overall development of Jamaican young girls.  This is to ensure our national women’s football program gets the support both on and off the field. We believe these initiatives will ensure long term sustainable results. The initiatives include :

Physical Development
-Focus on physical fitness
-Skills training and development
-Establish and support school female football programs

Educational Support
-Focus on tutoring and test preparation support. Establish committee to create a network of tutoring and test preparation.
-Establish Adopt a School afterschool program, where multiple businesses and NGOs can contribute to the sponsoring of one or more aftercare programs.

Healthy Development
-Provide health counseling for girls facing health-related issues, that otherwise could manifest into more serious challenges.
-Teach and encourage nutritional development
-Emotional Health

Social Development
-Provide peer-to-peer and Sr./Jr. mentorship and support groups.
-Provide life skills training along with grooming and hygiene.
-Teach etiquette skills to develop socially balanced young ladies and self-esteem.
-Encourage a stronger culture of family support and participation

Q.Thanks for the time? How can the general public reading this help the “Reggae Girls” and your organization continue to help women’s football in Jamaica?

Over the past year, my research has revealed several areas of opportunities for Jamaican young girls, many of which are at the core of issues facing the larger youth population. For example, one of several highlighted area of concern is the fact that adolescents aged 15-24 years old, account for 44.75 percent of all births in Jamaica, and the same age range is uncharacteristically contracting HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted disease.

The focus of this program is to promote and provide a holistic and multidimensional development approach, through structured and innovative football training, educational support, health support, and overall social development. Producing physically and mentally strong young women to become Reggae Girlz, but more importantly, significant contributors to society.

October has been proclaimed Reggae Girlz Awareness Month  by South Florida Mayors and Commissioners form The City of Miramar, The City Lauderdale Lakes and the City of Lauderhill.
Jamaica will host the U20 CONCACAF Tournament October 21st , 23rd , and 24th. The U17 games begin October 30th to November 9th.

Anyone interested in helping may make a donation:
Via: GoFundMe
Or, Mail check to 7378 W. Atlantic Blvd. Suite 233
Margate, FL 33063
Make check payable to JIFFD or Jamaica International Female Football Development Inc.

About the author

Denise Lee