One of Barbados most outstanding sportspersons is spreading her wings across the Caribbean.
Senior national footballer Soraya Toppin-Herbert is the new Director of Womens Football Development in The Bahamas.
Toppin-Herbert has been a household name in the Barbados football arena since her early days at the West Terrace Primary School, where she mesmerized many with her ability and attitude; qualities which would earn her a football scholarship to Purdue University, where she enjoyed four years of Division 1 collegiate competition while earning a bachelors degree in Sports Science.
It is probably the grace of God, really working behind the scenes..."
The former Queens College student pursued and obtained two masters degrees immediately after her undergraduate studies: one in Business Administration and the other in Sport Business Management, both from the University of Central Florida.
Her qualifications and rich passion, saw her create Raya 34 Sports Inc, an organization that utilizes football to teach, mentor and empower young people.
Toppin-Herberts work-ethic and ingenuity was monitored and admired by many professionals, local and international, and according to her, those qualities, and the right connection at an ideal time, presented her with the opportunity to work in The Bahamas.
It is probably the grace of God, really working behind the scenes.
"The opportunity came about from a connection that was made when I attended the FIFA CIES programme in Trinidad. The General Secretary from The Bahamas Football Association wouldve been a part of that programme and there was a vacancy for the position, and he wouldve followed what I was doing in Barbados with my More than Boots programme and I came to mind.
Toppin-Herbert with members of her More than Boots programme
From there we started talking about what their plans were and it seemed like a really good fit in terms of my passion, which is football development, as well as youth development and thats how it started, said Toppin-Herbert.
Toppin-Herbert is no stranger to the operations of a football association, as she is the former Players and Competition Logistics Manager of the Barbados Football Association (BFA), a post which she held for 18 months.
She said her experience with the BFA gave her an opportunity to be a part of and understand the operations of a football association, both technically and administratively, but it was her work with the More than Boots programme, that really prepared her for her current role in The Bahamas.
As Director of Womens Football Development, Toppin-Herbert explained that she is responsible for anything and everything relating to the development of the female game in The Bahamas.
When we conversed for the interview, Toppin-Herbert had just finished her day by observing a female beach football session at the countrys National Beach Soccer Arena.
She passionately expressed her intention to develop beach football amongst females on the island, along with some other key areas of the female game, by maximizing the use of the national beach football facility.
There are also plans to have more activity amongst the senior women national teams, in an effort to improve their portfolio in the global game, but COVID-19 has delayed them for now.
The womens national team has been able to train and the Under 20s, so we really been focusing there, and then we recently started our womens beach programme, so thats been the focus and all weve been able to do because of COVID.
We are looking to get more active going into 2022. We are looking to get more programmes going and making sure we are tapping into all of the areas we can develop for players, coaches, referees, as well as administrators, Toppin-Herbert said.
Toppin-Herbert identified some similarities between her last position in the BFA and her current one but explained that there are some distinct differences; one such being the technical development responsibility and its marriage to the administrative operations of her role.
Its (the job is)a good mix. Its administrative in terms of programme planning and organizing and things like that, but then I also have tasks on the technical side like observing our coaching programmes and giving feedback.
"Recently we put in place a curriculum for our Centre of Excellence.
Toppin-Herberts initial contract expires in 2023 and she has highlighted some key objectives to achieve before her stint is over.
It would be a combination of things.
"I think one of the goals is to get our womens senior team ranked, because currently we arent ranked. We havent played enough games to be on the FIFA ranking.
"Another thing will be to see an increase in the number of participants from grassroots, all the way to seniors, and finally get the (womens) league going, because there hasnt been a womens league prior to COVID, so getting that up and running would be one of the goals.
The national midfielder said her location has not changed any of her playing aspirations or professional ones as it relates to her More than Boots programme.
She stated that she is remaining active, as she is still very interested in representing Barbados in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers and the More than Boots Programme is functioning efficiently due to a very strong support system.
Luckily, Im blessed with a very good support team in Barbados and one of my goals for my programme in Barbados is to grow it, so this helps me to push it.
"I have a really good administrative support team in my mother and some other persons back home who have taken up that role and then Ive also been able to bring in some other coaches to assist with the coaching.
"Through one of the partnerships with Coaches Across Continents, we collaborate with them a lot in terms of our curriculum. So, a lot of stuff is already structured, its just a matter of plugging and playing with it, Toppin-Herbert said.
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