Orville Higgins | Netball nightmares
If Netball Jamaica wanted a seamless transition from their last president to the new appointee, Paula Daley-Morris, they certainly haven’t got their wish. It seems as if there is an unseen hand pulling some strings from behind the scenes to constantly have Jamaican netball in the news.
The new president is probably wondering just what she has got herself into. The bad news appears to show no sign of stopping.
Only a few months ago, there was a public spat with arguably the most accomplished Sunshine Girl, Romelda Aiken, regarding her availability for Jamaica. It was played out in the full glare of the media that there were differences between her and those running netball on compensation for leaving Australia to come home to represent Jamaica. That whole incident led to a war of words between Romelda and the president. One isn't even certain if that situation has been resolved.
Then there was the sudden parting of ways with Minneth Reynolds, this after a successful three-Test series against England that the Sunshine Girls won 2-1. People in the know are still puzzled as to why she and Netball Jamaica are apparently not seeing eye to eye. That didn't help to create the notion that all was hunky-dory.
Unwanted public attention
Minneth Reynolds' exit paved the way for a new coach, and that has created all kinds of unwanted public attention for Netball Jamaica. The very process of selecting the head coach was mired in controversy. Connie Francis came out swinging after she was told that she would share head-coaching duties for six months, with Jermaine Allison-McCracken, before a final decision was made. Effectively, then, they would have been pitted against each other in the probationary period. It was untidy at best, and outright illogical at worst.
Connie, we know, was not amused. She felt disrespected and took her case to the public. She was not mincing words and said plainly that she thought technical director Maureen Hall blocked her progress because of a long-running feud between the two. Maureen Hall, of course, denied that she was involved in the selection process, but the damage might have already been done.
As if there was not enough drama in netball, last week, we heard of three of the more outstanding players on the team being suspended over disagreements over gym drills or swimming practice. Depending on who you talk to, the absence of Shanice Beckford, Khadijah Williams and Nicole Dixon could be either good or bad. Some feel the coach had a right to put down her foot, while others think her to be too quick to read the riot act.
I don't see how learning to swim is imperative to any athlete who is not involved in a water-based sport. Pool drills and exercises are almost compulsory for most high-end sportsman or woman, but learning to swim is a different thing altogether. Even if the coach feels that this is necessary, she should try gentle persuasion rather than the my-way-or-the-highway approach.
The coach has got to be careful how she operates. Half of the job of a coach is to get people wanting to do well for him or her. It doesn't how matter how technically sound the coach is, if the players are not prepared to jump through hoops for you, your chances of success are slim. All good coaches have mastered the art of instilling discipline without alienating the dressing room. In that regard, our new coach may have a little to learn.
And then there is the whole business of a media and public lockout of training sessions. There are conflicting reports as to whether it was the coach or Netball Jamaica itself that organised this. Either way, this hasn't gone down well. The wider public is watching netball. Could things get worse?
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.