ASSISTANT professor at the University of TT’s (UTT) Academy of Sport Karen Lawrence-Ince is concerned by the recent performances of the TT netball team, saying new structures and ideas should be developed to improve performances.
Last month, TT’s Calypso Girls competed in a three-match Margaret Beckford Sunshine series against Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls in Kingston, Jamaica.
TT, missing top player Samantha Wallace, lost all the matches by a wide margin. TT lost game one 71-22, the second 64-32 and the third 73-22.
“I am struggling to understand the thinking that is informing TT netball, after decades of being a player and avid supporter,” Lawrence-Ince said.
Lawrence-Ince, a physical education and sport pedagogist, lectures at UTT’s Academy of Sport – Centre for Kinesiology Physical Education and Sport.
Lawrence-Ince has been a player for over 30 years with Las Lomas Utd in the Port of Spain League. The league has not been in operation during the covid19 pandemic.
Lawrence-Ince said following the 2019 Netball World Cup a response by then TT netball coach Wesley “Pepe” Gomes left her perplexed.
“In an interview after our last game the former coach, acknowledging our disappointing performance, was asked about strategies needed to improve our chances in future tournaments. To my astonishment, he declared on international television that there was no system in place to bring players through to an elite standard, and that he hoped that scouts from netballing nations will scoop up some of our girls, where their ensuing success somehow and hopefully, will bleed into the entire team.”
Lawrence-Ince expected a more confident reply from a national coach.
“Now, I am not sure what I expected him to say, but certainly not something sounding as if we’re clueless about how we could shore up our fortunes in netball.”
As Lawrence-Ince recalled, TT had a fruitful period decades ago including a World Championship title in 1979 when this country hosted the event. That team included star player Jean Pierre.
TT’s fitness level was low during the series against Jamaica.
“One of the concerns raised by the current coach (Althea McCollin), and one which I strongly agreed with, was the overall fitness of the team, which looked to be in an underclass when compared with Jamaica.”
Lawrence-Ince believes being fit is a personal responsibility.
“Each player ought to take full responsibility for her own fitness, covid19 or not. A player should forfeit selection if certain conditions are not met, or upon failing prescribed fitness tests.”
Lawrence-Ince, who lived in New Zealand previously, said, “In New Zealand, for example, the ladies train unrelentingly to ensure their national selection, as it is not an automatic thing. It is almost unfair for a coach not to have something tenable to work with as a starting point, especially when facing a netball powerhouse like Jamaica.”
She is challenging the local netball association to develop new strategies. “I think it is time for a change of thinking in the TT Netball Association, with its new slate of functionaries. This might be the ideal window of opportunity to dismantle some of the defunct structures and vaccinate some new life into the sport. Long gone are the days of automatic plane rides and entitlement to beautifully designed player kits. The Government should do this or that is a tired narrative that could only take us so far.”
Lawrence-Ince said a solid organisational structure can encourage support.
“I advise that you create a workable structure that could attract a sponsor for the long haul. Continue the work of fund raising though difficult in these times, but taking on initiatives with perseverance could only realise positive outcomes.”
Reiterating the point of staying fit, Lawrence-Ince said, “A final word to the players - keeping fit and maintaining a healthy diet is still affordable in TT and must rest primarily with you. This is the requirement for any sport if you want to play at the highest level. No one can secure your physical fitness but you, and it’s the least you can do. We will continue to hope that collectively, other structural changes will be made for the benefit of you the player and ultimately, our sport.”