Blowing that whistle on netball
For several weeks now, there have been many expositions in the media, in reference to the state of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ netball.
The concerns raised by all commentators hinge on the realities that St Vincent and the Grenadines had fallen off the regional radar for more than a decade.
Even before that, there were some warning signs that St Vincent and the Grenadines was losing its edge as a netball powerhouse in the Caribbean.
Things, though, got from bad to worse for St Vincent and the Grenadines, as the changing formats of global tournaments, coupled with the disappearance of the Caribbean Netball Association (CNA) tournament, exacerbated the country’s senior team’s non-engagement.
And, when possibilities were presented, financial limitations prevented appearances in the Americas Federation of Netball Association (AFNA) qualifiers, which served as a bridge to global tournaments such as the world cup.
As a matter of course, the senior team was inactive, until earlier this year, when a tri- nation series was staged, which also included St Lucia. This marked close to eight years in the international wilderness.
So, when St Vincent and the Grenadines made the plunge to be part of the AFNA qualifiers last week in Barbados, the long layoff was evident.
Regionally, there is a gulf between St Vincent and the Grenadines and the top three – Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Grenada, which were part of the eight-team make-up of AFNA qualifiers.
The scoreline versus the three, were part of the assessment where St Vincent and the Grenadines is stacked against them.
St Vincent and the Grenadines was beaten 62-49 by Grenada; 65-31 by Barbados and was demolished 80-26 by Trinidad and Tobago.
In short, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ netball is some years behind the trio.
The Vincentians, though, had wins against the lesser teams in the qualifiers.
Their victories were 78-27 versus St Maarten; 53-44 over Canada, along with a 69-33 romping over the USA, and an 88-24 swamping of Argentina, which put St Vincent and the Grenadines in fourth spot in the qualifiers.
Whilst it would have been far-fetched to think that St Vincent and the Grenadines would have come out as one of the two teams and make it to the World Cup in England in 2019, persons who follow netball here, were generally hoping for the Vincentians to be more competitive against the expected top three.
And, the Vincentians deficiencies were exposed at some junctures in the encounters against St Maarten and Canada, and to some extent in their meeting with the USA.
Blame, though, cannot be laid at the feet of the players, neither the coaching staff, for what unfolded in Barbados.
The latter duo of head coach – Moeth Gaymes and his assistant – O’ Neil Cockburn, would have been thrown in at the deep end, as it would have been their first major assignment.
Hence, their technical and tactical preparations would have fallen short on the counts of their charges and the more accomplished oppositions.
They and their charges would have given their best efforts, however, it was clear that the Vincentians output against the better teams, was the manifestation of the structure of the sport here.
This lack of a better structure made it glaring that some of our players were not in tune with some of the changes, and were at bay with some of the umpires’ calls.
For years, many have been bellowing and beckoning for a restructured national tournament, as the current setup does not promote enough competition among the elite players who would form the national stock.
Therefore, the time is ripe for the St Vincent and the Grenadines Netball Association’s executive, to engage the minds of those stakeholders with a view towards addressing the state of netball here.
Coaching, umpiring, the plethora of area competitions, the club/ teams structures, the national tournament, as well as the schools’ competition, are just some of the areas, are due for some changes and where needed, an overhaul.