What’s source of netball problems
That was my first reaction to the news that the management team of the under-21 national netballers had been sacked.
It caught my eye because it seems that netball has a history of problems with management of teams prior to major tournaments.
I recall it happened in 1993 but the good thing then is that Barbados had a share of the Caribbean championships in Monserrat.
Another significant shift was made after Anna Shepherd and Sandrene Jordan led the seniors to qualification for the World Tournament in 2008.
Jordan was again shifted along with others after doing the bulk of work in preparing a squad for the World Youth Championships in 2009.
The path leading to the last World Championships wasn’t too smooth either so it seems that a certain pattern has developed which doesn’t speak well for the sport particularly when you need to see a sense of purpose and unity leading into major tournaments.
I think there’s something wrong that whenever it seems that a set of players are beginning to bond with one management team they then have to grow a new relationship with another.
I believe it can be confusing especially if switching is done last- minute because inevitably a new group of managers will bring their own training regimen which means the players have to adjust in midstream to different drills and tactics in short order.
The transition can take time you don’t have put down.
Still, the question remains: what is the genesis of this problem in netball?
What are the root causes of the symptoms?
Are the coaches given a job description when they are appointed outlining what is expected of them?
How often is their work assessed?
What kind of interaction is there between the executive and the coaches in respect of the progress the team is making?
And crucially at what point is the decision made to terminate the services of the coaches?
I don’t know the answers but based on the antecedents, you could conclude that the association has a very rigid and demanding appraisal system which has apparently found quite a few people wanting.
It seems to resemble what you get in the English Premier League where the days of football managers are numbered if they don’t get the results the clubs and supporters expect.
The major difference is that in football big bucks are invested, so unless there are healthy returns those responsible become dispensable, but in local netball work is voluntary so why do coaches have to endure so much pressure to keep their picks?
In this case I would hope the team wasn’t fired because the under-21s who play as Phoenix Gems in the senior competition, aren’t doing well at the moment. Even so, I figure they are competing first and foremost to gel as a unit and to get some stiff competition from more experienced players as they prepare to face the world in Scotland in August.
In other words, the focus shouldn’t necessarily be on results alone even though you would like them to develop a winning culture so that it will form an integral part of their mindset when they face international competition.
If we accept this as being logical, you might conclude that there’s more in the netball mortar than the pestle.
Who is undermining whom?
What does it do to relationships within the sport? Can people still look each other in the eye?
Will the wounded be still motivated to contribute to netball significantly if they feel they’ve been unfaired?
Oh, but there’s a history of this kind of action so it may just be a natural thing and people sitting on the sidelines like us may just be making much ado about nothing.
Actually, I have been around netball for a few decades and this latest fall out might simply be business as usual.
They will kiss and make up soon because netball has some of the most committed and dedicated servants in local sports.
They don’t come much better than Sonya Knight, Denese Morgan and Marion Johnson-Hurley.
• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning freelance sports journalist. Email [email protected]