Randy Waldrum Takes Charge of the Soca Princesses

Houston Dash head coach Randy Waldrum is a busy man these days. In addition to his duties with the Dash, he has added the title of manager of the Soca Princesses, Trinidad and Tobago’s women’s national team. Houston Dash fans were not alone in their surprise over the announcement last week, however, Waldrum himself was not quite prepared, “It came up quick and they released it before I even knew they were going to release it and now I am scrambling to inform a lot of people because it came out and I had no idea it was coming out.”

I would not do anything to jeopardize the Dash, My commitment is here.

It turns out that the appointment has been nearly a year in coming. “Trinidad & Tobago is something I agreed to probably about a year ago. I know the General Secretary really well, he’s a good personal friend. I was down there a number of years ago with the U-17s, to try to help them qualify (for the 2008 World Cup). He asked me about a year ago if I’d be interested in coming and doing the senior team. Of course I was still at Notre Dame at the time and I said, ‘sure, I’ll help you any way that I can.'”

Women’s national team programs in smaller soccer nations like Trinidad and Tobago are generally underfunded and understaffed which means decision making and organization often moves slowly. In this instance, it took the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) a year to come back and say they were ready to move ahead.

In the interim, however, Waldrum had taken the head coaching job with the Dash and, as a result, circumstances had changed, “I said I can’t do it now because we are in season and the only way I can help you is if you want to bring the team here for some training; I can train them in the evenings in my off-time, but you’ll have to send a staff with them.”

With most of the national team funding going to the men’s side, the TTFA needed time to make a firm decision to move forward with a Houston camp. For his part, Waldrum has spent months trying to help them put together a Houston camp which originally would have involved the team spending the entire summer in Houston; June to August.

When June rolled around, however, the TTFA was not yet ready. Finally, the decision was made last week to move ahead with a 3-4 week camp in Houston starting on July 14th. With the decision made, the TTFA suddenly went into acceleration mode and Waldrum’s appointment was announced a day or two later sending him scrambling.

Randy Waldrum at Dash Day. Credit: Hannah Enad

Without the opportunity for Waldrum and the Dash to get out ahead of the news, fans were left wondering what this means for the Houston Dash. In reality, it should have no negative implications but several potentially positive implications.

Waldrum is clear that the role has no impact on his responsibilities with the Dash, “I’m excited about it, I know a lot of questions have come up with the Dash about how it changes things here and it really doesn’t. First of all, I would not do anything to jeopardize the Dash, My commitment is here.”

Financially, the priority is clear as well: Waldrum is not getting paid to manage Trinidad and Tobago. “I am doing it for free, so I certainly would not jeopardize this (the Dash role),” joked Waldrum.

Unlike large national team programs in nations such as the United States, the role of manager of a national team like Trinidad and Tobago is part-time and does not involve a large commitment, making it feasible to manage both club and country. In fact, it more closely resembles the time commitment of a national team player than it does a large program manager like the United States’ Jill Ellis.

Prior to a friendly against Venezuela on July 6th, the Soca Princesses had not played an international match in 18 months. A number of the players are in school in the United States and unable to get away to train with the national team often.

The friendly this weekend was the first time the team had been together since a March tour of South Carolina that included friendlies with the University of South Carolina, College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern University. However, not all of the players could get away from school for that tour.

Waldrum flew down to Trinidad early Sunday morning following the Dash’s Saturday night game with Western New York in order to observe the team play against Venezuela. Sitting in the stands, Waldrum watched as Jason Spence oversaw the team in a 5-0 win over Venezuela. He arrived back in Houston Monday morning in time to work with the Dash. He will not be present for the follow up friendly with Venezuela tonight.

The national team will stay and train at the University of Houston after their arrival on July 14th. “They are going to send staff, I am going to add a couple of coaches that I know who know how I want to play. So they will primarily be training the team although I’ll get over in the evenings as much as I can and help organize the training. That is really it,” added Waldrum.

Following the Houston camp, Trinidad and Tobago hosts the Caribbean Football Union Championship from August 19-26 which doubles as World Cup qualifying – the top four teams will qualify for the CONCACAF Championship taking place in the United States between October 16-26 where 3.5 spots for the 2015 Women’s World Cup will be up for grabs.

Trinidad and Tobago’s chances of qualifying out of the CFU Championship look fairly good as it was drawn in a relatively easy group consisting of Antigua and Barbuda, Martinique and St. Kitts & Nevis – teams which have never beaten them. The other group is much more difficult, consisting of Bermuda, Jamaica, Haiti and Puerto Rico – all teams viewed as more difficult than any team in Trinidad and Tobago’s group.

The opening match for Trinidad and Tobago is on August 20th against St. Kitts & Nevis. The final match of the season for the Dash is August 17th, the NWSL Championship game is on August 31st. Waldrum’s Trinidad and Tobago staff will manage the team in the CFU Championship. If the Dash season wraps up while the tournament is still in progress, Waldrum will join the team to take charge.

Assuming Trinidad qualifies for the CONCACAF Championship, then he would manage the team through that tournament as well as it takes place during the off-season.

The opportunities for the Houston Dash fall into two categories: training and scouting. “Selfishly, looking ahead, I thought this would really help us with the Dash too because when we need to I’ll be able to bring them out and we can do some co-training where we have a team to play against which would also be good for Trinidad. We won’t do that much, but there may be a couple of occasions where we do it,” says Waldrum.

“The other part is me being out more internationally and scouting international players. Selfishly that was one of the reasons I thought, yeah this is probably a good idea. Better to know and see first hand some of the players that come across the desk that’s on our radar screen.”

Already that scouting could pay off with a first hand look at what Trinidad and Tobago has to offer, “There is a some talent there. There are a couple of players that I wouldn’t mind seeing how they stack up here. They have some athletic players.”

In the meantime, Trinidad and Tobago training in Houston means the possibilities of friendly matches; not only scrimmages with the Dash but possibly with other local clubs or an international side. Options will become clearer in the next week or two.

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