Former USA player and Under-19 coach Reggie Benjamin has accepted a coaching and development role with the Bahamas. Benjamin will oversee all youth development in the Bahamas in addition to coaching duties beginning this week.
"I expect to see the senior nationals and the Under-19 team performing much better abroad because we hope that besides doing the youth that he'll bring some professional level of coaching to the senior and the Under-19 teams," Bahamas Cricket Manager, Greg Taylor Sr., told ESPNcricinfo on Friday.
The 50-year-old Benjamin had been splitting time between southern California and his native Antigua. He was the highest certified coach living in the United States with an ECB Level Three certificate but is excited to have a fresh opportunity and be able to implement a vision for developing a sustainable pipeline of local talent within the Bahamas.
"[Bahamas] can see progress for the future instead of just depending on and hope somebody from Guyana comes, lives there long enough and can play for the team," Benjamin said, making reference to his disappointment with USA's lack of commitment to a proper development program. "It's just not going to work that way for very much longer. I get to basically apply a true development program and coach players from all aspects of the game, from the physical, mental, lifestyle, everything. That's one aspect that I'm truly excited about.
"No team is going to survive depending on expats to come and a lot of America's teams will face that problem eventually. You have to develop your talent."
Benjamin served as head coach for the USA Under-19 team in 2003 and most recently as an assistant coach with the USA U-19 team that went to the 2010 Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand. He also served as head coach for South West Region teams at USACA tournaments and had a solid career playing for the United States as a fast bowler, competing in three ICC Trophy events for USA's senior team in 1990, 1994 and 1997.
While Benjamin's departure is a blow to the talent he coached in the southern California area and across the USA, he hopes to use his connections in America to create a mutually beneficial relationship between USA and the Bahamas. The first part of that is getting more consistent fixtures, something he feels will aid development as both countries suffer from not playing enough matches at an elite level.
"We can't depend on the ICC to do one or two tournaments a year and call that development. That's not development," Benjamin said. Bahamas were relegated from ICC Americas Division One after finishing at the bottom of the tournament in Bermuda last May and June. In November, the Bahamas finished last in the eight-team ICC World Cricket League Division Eight tournament in Kuwait.
In early April, the Bahamas competed in the ICC Americas Division Two Twenty20 championship, where they finished in fifth place. They have no more international fixtures scheduled at the senior level until at least 2012. Benjamin says that in order to help reverse the downward trend, more opportunities are needed to play.
"You have to have more competition in order for players to get better," Benjamin said. "It doesn't make any sense that Bahamas will play the US one time every two years or play Canada." Because the Bahamas are only an hour's flight away from south Florida, Benjamin hopes more effort will be made into facilitating an on-field relationship between the countries.
"We have to look into the possibility that Bahamas can play the US at senior level maybe three or four times a year, junior level about the same because we're that close," Benjamin said. "We're not going to get better with this one tournament a year. It's just not gonna happen. I know finance is an issue, but with proper planning and sponsorship it can be done."
Benjamin is eager to start working with the Bahamas and believes that his focus on youth will lead to success at the senior level as well as overall development in the country.
"I have a few players, but one player that I know is a very dangerous player, Marc Taylor, a left handed opening bat," Benjamin said. "The team that I'm building is a young based team, a real young, energetic team. They're gonna learn fast, they're gonna learn correctly."