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Netball at the crossroads

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It IS always an exciting time whenever the National Netball Club Tournament opens.

The pomp, the pageantry and the colour associated with the occasion is often gulped up and digested by those who attend the yearly exercise.{{more}}

As expected from our women folk, they come out in their numbers to support their own and reinforce the sport they can really call theirs.

But this exercise, which scores highly in organization and execution, is just the subset of the universal set – netball.

Now that the gloss of this year’s version has been erased, the realities of the sport are being exposed to nature. It is indeed a welcomed development that there is a decrease in the number of participating teams to a manageable twenty-eight.

This column, over the years, has raised its voice against the unproductive happenings which existed then, with more than fifty teams registered in the national tournament.

The process of attrition over time took place; some teams merged, while the pressure of the economics of the country and the disintegration of some of the units went in train.

But no one should ever pass over that there are only five teams lodged in the top flight of the tournament – Division One.

This begs the question, is it there are only approximately ninety netballers who are eligible for the biggest show of the sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines?

Conversely, one may argue that things have panned out such that the cream of the crop is beginning to settle at the top, while others would contend that you should not compromise quality for quantity.

The coin is always round, therefore, whatever the cause(s) for the exit of some of the Division One outfits; the situation must be seen as a time to stop and review.

Therefore, if the Division One is to be contested as what exists presently, it would mean that the top players here would only play a compulsory five matches; four in the league format and one assured match in the Knockout Competition.

With a total of 10 matches in the league format of Division One, it is untenable.

Such a situation does not cut it, both for development purposes as well as a marketing tool for the tournament.

On the contrary, as it has happened for some time now, there would be more sub-standard matches on the offering plate.

Once the situation remains the same, it may be a wise decision for the executive of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Netball Association to play two rounds of matches. Just a thought!

But what is unfolding is telegraphed prior, and manifests itself at the national stage.

The joint choreographers of this happening are the various area committees and the executives of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Netball Association over the years.

While the area competitions have their social mandate, it is the sport which is fractured by their autonomous operations.

Then, in an effort to make their competitions attractive, the more established players are drafted in, thus preventing players from the various locales to emerge.

In addition, national players bunch themselves and move from competition to competition, with different configurations and with different names.

This is allowed to take root, as successive national executives have failed to bell the cat and put restrictions on the area committees.

But this is one part of the bigger issue, as many teams are not involved in grooming players, who will fill the spots at the higher level, thus ensuring continuity and sustainability of the teams.

The time is rife for the national policy makers of netball, to encourage, in the first instance, that all top flight teams have a feeder system in place and in future, make it mandatory.

These are just some of the immediate recommendations to be administered in the road to recovery of the lost ground traversed by the sport over the last decade.

Netball is at a crossroad, and the sport, like other disciplines, continues to evolve, but the base must be solidified to scaffold the inevitable changes.

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