Netball can do much better
By Andi Thornhill | Wed, September 11, 2013 - 12:00 AM
Seventh place in a world championship is commendable by any yardstick.
It is in this context that we have to congratulate the Barbados Under-21 netballers who competed at the World Youth Championships in Scotland.
I wonder how much better they would have done if the netball association didn’t change coaches in midstream just months before the tournament. It is a pattern that has developed in netball circles and it has to stop.
Quite frankly, it can only stop if those appointed to replace displaced coaches discreetly refuse the appointment.
Today for me. Tomorrow for you.
The under-21s did as well as expected given the psychological turmoil associated with the parting of original coach Sonya Knight.
There was also the common factor of not having any international competition before their departure.
This impacts on players when they have to face some of the top teams.
It is against this background that we have to accept that things will not get better unless we are able to expose our national teams to testing competition before major tournaments.
We can only measure our accomplishments if we are able to beat or at least be competitive against a top four team. The Barbados Netball Association should take note as we prepare for next year’s Commonwealth Games.
The seniors haven’t actually played an international in the past year. We can only participate and not compete if we continue along these lines.
In a way, the performance of the Under-21s has put this point into context.
They are a talented group but had no answer to the likes of England, Australia and South Africa once the tournament reached crucial stages.
We found redemption when we played Trinidad and Tobago for seventh position.
No disrespect is intended but the Trinidadians aren’t as formidable as they used to be at any level. We looked comfortable once we returned to our level.
The point we have to reinforce is that if we are serious about competing we have to bring our training and preparation on par with the rest of the world.
Nothing else will suffice and if we want to continue to see sport as just recreational there’s no point talking about taking it to the professional level. We are fooling ourselves.
Seriously, what are our realistic expectations for our girls at next year’s Commonwealth Games if they aren’t afforded the right to play against some of their opponents before competition starts?
It must be daunting to be drawn in the same group as Australia, South Africa, England and Wales.
I share the concerns echoed by senior coach Anna Shepherd about the nature of the draw but I think more attention has to be given to how we will prepare to deal with the opposition.
The same is true for the men’s senior volleyball squad who have secured a place in the next round of the World qualifiers.
It is more than likely that they will have to depend on the domestic tournament and weekly training sessions under coach Ludger Niles to get ready for the next step which is bound to be tougher than the preliminaries.
Again, will it be fair to bash the team if they perform below our expectations knowing full well that their preparation was at an unacceptable level for international competition?
The women’s football team have the 2015 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign next year and I hope they get the money they need to assist in whatever way possible but the main ingredient is having friendly internationals against worthy opponents who can test them and give the technical team an insight into areas that need to be corrected and fine-tuned.
In the same breath, when last did the senior men play an international? It is a pity that the world governing body, FIFA, has put aside days for such matches but we haven’t been able to make use of any in more than a year.
Is it any different in basketball? Will they get to play a competitive game against regional counterparts this year? Should we meekly accept that because there were no regional championships there should be no reward for our male and female players at a level other than domestic?
I can go on and on but what does it matter when organizations will simply sit back, play dead and blame every woe on a lack of funding.
• Andi Thornhill is an award-winning, experienced freelance sports journalist.
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