Jr. players get back to the grind


MP United Football Club’s Mosh Sikkel, left, seen here taking a shot against two Shirley’s Football Club defenders during last year’s NMIFA Youth Spring League, is one of the members of the Junior National Academy. (Contributed Photo)

The current members of the Northern Mariana Islands Football Association’s Junior National Academy returned to practice last week and will face a unique training session setup in the next few months.

Sixteen from the 19-player pool got back to work at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville, according to JNA head coach Jersh Angeles and though they also had online training sessions earlier, the youth players still showed signs of rust from a long break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even with the once-a-week JNA online training, most of the players obviously got tired fast on the field, while some of the players maintained their fitness and ball touches during the break. Our first session was mostly ball touches/feeling, dribbling, and passing. I considered their fitness and the hot weather, I made it light and easy for all the players,” Angeles said.

Junior National Academy head coach Jersh Angeles watches players perform drills at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Kobleville last week. (Contributed Photo)

The JNA head coach acknowledged that it will take time before the pool members regain their top form, especially at this time when their training sessions have restrictions because of the pandemic.

“One of the biggest challenges is how the players will recover from the break and how they can adjust with the ‘new normal’ situations on the and off the field,” Angeles said.

Meanwhile, the current JNA players will welcome new members next month, as the academy is opening a series of try-outs to form the JNA Batch 2020-2021. JNA is one of NMIFA’s grassroots programs and aims at preparing young players (in the 10 to 12 age group) for higher-level competitions and national team training system.

The try-outs will kick off on Aug. 8 from 8am to 9:30am at the NMISTC, while the next two sessions are scheduled for Aug. 15 and 22, from 8am to 9:15am. The last trial will be held on Aug. 29 from 8am to 9:30am.

A Southern United player, left, dribbles in front of an MP United defender during their U10 game in last year’s NMIFA Fall Youth League. The Northern Mariana Islands Football Association’s Junior National Academy will hold a series of try-outs for players in the 10 to 12 group to select new JNA members. (Contributed Photo)

From the new JNA players and the current 19 pool members, JNA will select the best 24 individuals to form the Junior National Academy Batch 2020-2021. They will then have 12 training sessions from Sept. 8 to Dec. 1 at the TSL Sports Complex. Trainings will take place every Tuesday for two hours each session. Interested players are required to undergo COVID-19 test and submit their negative results before they will be allowed to join the trials.

Meanwhile, players born in 2007 and have been enrolled in JNA will participate in the tryouts for the CNMI Boys U14 National Team in September. Schedule will be announced later.

NMIFA is moving ahead with some of its programs to get ready for future tournaments and keep its players active and in shape. Health and safety protocols set by both government authorities and NMIFA are strictly being followed by players, coaches, and staff.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.
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