Calypso Girls coach sacked a month after World Cup qualification

TT Netball Association president Sherry Ann Blackburn - via Facebook
TT Netball Association president Sherry Ann Blackburn - via Facebook

INTERIM national senior netball team coach Kemba Duncan and manager Ashelle Legall, who guided TT’s Calypso Girls to 2023 Netball World Cup qualification one month ago, have been sacked by the TT Netball Association.

Duncan said she received a Zoom call from local netball president Sherry Ann Blackburn and vice-president Lisa Stanisclaus on Monday evening and was told the reason she was being removed as coach was that her “communication is off course.”

Legall said she received a similar call but did not elaborate as she was “still awaiting the official document.”

Duncan said the whole situation remains “unclear” and she also awaits an official statement from the netball fraternity.

Newsday reached out to Blackburn for a comment on their recent shake-up but she responded, via WhatsApp, saying, “I’m not at liberty to discuss yet. I will when I’m able to.”

Duncan said her removal came as a surprise.

“The reason given to me was that the council decided not to renew my contract because the ‘communication is off course’. That is all the information I received so far and I asked for them to send it formally. They said they would respond via e-mail in seven days.

“I was not expecting it. I think, at this stage, where we have just about eight months ahead of the World Cup, I thought it would be a building process where we change the levels of the players and team, knowing where we’re at and where needs to be improved.

“My sacking was not something that I thought was in the making,” said Duncan.

The Tobagonian coach was appointed assistant coach in May 2021, under then-national coach Althea McCollin. In January, she was asked to step in as interim coach and agreed.

Since then, she prepped and coached TT at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England in August, where they finished 11th, with a record of one win from six matches.

And at the Americas Netball World Cup qualifiers in Jamaica last month, TT played unbeaten and booked a 2023 World Cup spot. The World Cup is scheduled for July 28 to August 6 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Duncan said after the qualifiers, team officials submitted their respective tournament reports to the netball fraternity. All meetings held with Duncan after that, she said, were to discuss what was put into the report and never entailed her firing.

“I respect their decision but I’m disappointed with the approach taken to just come and say they’re going in another direction, without further clarifying or giving a better analysis on what happened entirely.”

She said the removal of her and the manager may hurt the team since training was scheduled to resume next week. Some players have allegedly already reached out to Duncan and expressed shock over the board’s decision.

Duncan said she is unsure about the direction the team is now heading. “It would all depend on what they (the board) have planned next. If it’s about building the team up, probably seeing where the team is at, and add to it, or if they have to start over.

“If they do start over, of course, that’s a step back. But if they’re taking it from where the team is at and having intentions to build on what I started with the team, well that’s a different scenario.

“It all depends on the angle in which it is taken. It’s how it’s dealt with to get a player back into the right frame of mind.”

Duncan said she awaits the “real reason” for her firing, on paper.

From here, she plans to continue working on talent identification and player development in Tobago. Duncan wants to increase her presence in school programmes and place more emphasis in unearthing new players.

“We finished on top (America qualifiers), qualified for the World Cup, put in the work and showed commitment. I did not lack at any point. This is why it’s surprising given the commitment and effort that was put into the team.”


"Calypso Girls coach sacked a month after World Cup qualification"

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