HOT SPOT: May progress continue
Like aftershocks from an earthquake, the full impact of the change in presidency of the Barbados Netball Association (BNA) will continue to be felt long after the actual event.
Former national player Juanita Cordle takes over the presidency from Octavia Gibson at a time when the future was looking bright for the sport. But given the outcome of the election, clearly there was an element very dissatisfied with the status quo.
The first major decision which confronts the new president and board will be the selection of a head coach.
With the resignation of Alwyn Babb – citing conflict with Cordle – the senior national players have been left out on a limb.
And the longer they hang there, the more doubts will creep in.
Whoever is chosen, regardless of their experience, will have a huge task on hand.
Not only does Barbados have a tri-nation series against Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in April, but they have been drawn in a difficult pool with England, Malawi and Malaysia for the July 3 to 10 World Netball Championships in Singapore.
Somehow, Babb, a largely untried and inexperienced netball coach, was able to get the players to buy in to his totally new system.
When the [new] coach comes, these players, who were just starting to get familiar with one system, will have to readjust to another, with Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago looming.
It is just a matter of time before we start to hear about resignations, and this too will affect the chemistry of the team.
Having had the best performances at the Commonwealth Games ever, defeating Trinidad and Tobago for the first time in six years and a rise in the ranking under his belt in a mere ten months, Babb seemed like the catalyst for change.
His successor will have big shoes to fill and the public will expect nothing less than further improvement.
President Cordle also has big shoes to fill, though there are those who will disagree.
At the time when Gibson took over the presidency of the BNA, its public profile was very low. No one wanted the thankless task, and a concerned few went outside the organisation and convinced her to take up the task. Ironically, some of them were the ones who turned against her.
Gibson brought a face to the sport in keeping with its label as the nation’s No. 1 female discipline.
But it was more than a face. She was also held in high regard by fellow sports administrators and, along with the board, put structures in place to improve the national teams.
She was in the process of addressing shortcomings in the constitution and general operations of the BNA when her tenure was cut short.
Still, she wasn’t perfect and some of her decisions were met with anger. That anger simmered under the surface as the move to oust her grew.
Some clubs, accustomed to having the lead role in the sport, felt increasingly marginalised and sought to correct this at the last annual general meeting.
But having control of the sport at the local level impacts on the regional and international stage.
That is how the average Barbadian measures success, because the majority never leave home to watch a netball match unless a Barbados team is playing in a final.
Hundreds had to be turned away when Barbados met Jamaica in the final of the Caribbean Netball Association Jean Pierre Under-16 Competition, but they won’t leave home when Rangers play St Barnabas.
The country is bigger than the club.
If your club/team wins every title at the local level, but the overseas performances of the various national teams are poor, what have you really accomplished?
Those who fund netball locally and potential international sponsors who are being courted want a Barbados team which is performing well so that their brand is associated with a successful team.
That is the direction Gibson was trying to take netball. That was the blueprint for Jamaican success and they have maintained a strong No. 4 ranking in the world after turning their backs on the sub-par competition in the region.
Last year, in recognition of the strides that Barbados were making, Jamaica deigned to assent to a Tri-Series.
Let’s hope that those who lamented the shortcomings of the last administration have what it takes to continue on the path of growth shown in the last year, because no one remembers who won the league trophy two weeks after the season ends.
But everyone wants to see a Barbados team taking their rightful place among netball’s elite in the world.
• Sherrylyn A. Toppin is a NATION reporter and can be reached at [email protected]