“It’s definitely different — a lot less grass and a lot more rocks,” Sweatman said of the field at the University of West Indies where the junior Reggae Girlz do most of their training. “I’m used to playing [on] turf every game here. I step on that field, and it’s nothing compared to our worst grass field.”
When Sweatman arrived in Kingston to try out for the team in April 2010, her time in the soccer-hungry country had been limited to a single family vacation. Representing her mother’s homeland, Sweatman has become a starting center midfielder and team captain for Jamaica’s under-20 women’s team.
After representing the country in U-20 Women’s World Cup qualifying, the Florida State recruit is a major part of its youth movement in women’s soccer, a development plan aimed at delivering the small island nation of fewer than 3 million people its first Women’s World Cup berth.
“It’s been a good eye-opener for Marlo,” Ed Sweatman said of his daughter’s international experience, which has also included trips with the team to Cuba, Panama and the Dominican Republic. “Most people have an impression of the Caribbean Islands as all fun in the sun, but there are obviously people dealing with the same issues we have up here and even worse. She’s made connections that will stick with her forever.”
Almost three years ago, Ed Sweatman, a recruiter for the Virginia National Guard, sent his daughter’s international career in motion with a phone call to Jamaica Football Federation headquarters.
He helped Marlo apply for dual citizenship and then flew to the country’s capital of Kingston to hand deliver the necessary paperwork when bureaucracy caused the process to drag for months. The family has paid for several of Marlo’s international flights to take some of the financial burden off the country’s soccer federation, but Ed Sweatman said the travel costs have been no more than zig-zagging the country with a top-level club team.
Vin Blaine, Jamaica’s national director for women’s teams, has been working to grow the national youth program, hoping to spark improvement from the bottom up. Though he said he’d like to have tryouts in the United States and Canada some day, he doesn’t have the resources for much international scouting. The handful of foreign-based players currently in the country’s program came to him.
Though the U-20 roster was already set at the time, Blaine invited the 5-foot-9 midfielder down for a tryout and soon created a spot for Sweatman.