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Sunshine Girls building endurance for World Champs

Published:Wednesday | May 6, 2015 | 5:00 AMDania Bogle
Roy Thomas ... Sunshine Girls' fitness coach.

It is said that if you want different results, you have to do something differently.

That seems to be the new mantra adopted by Jamaica's Sunshine Girls as they bid to win netball's world title for the first time.

As the team prepares for the next edition of the International Netball Federation's Netball World Cup, to be held in Sydney, Australia, from August 7-16, they have adopted a new fitness strategy.

The Jamaicans, who have finished a best of third at the 1991, 2003 and 2007 editions of the world tournament, have often blamed their challenges on fitness, as they struggle to keep up with their hard-running counterparts from Australia and New Zealand.

Some persons may have noticed that a Sunshine Girls team competed at last February's Gibson McCook Relays, posting a respectable 4:07.94 in the women's clubs and institutions 4x400m.

The Girls have also been competing in several 5K road races, including the Sigma and Guardian Life editions over the last few months.

This new approach to fitness is the brainchild of the team's fitness coach, Roy Thomas, a teacher of physical education and instructor at Shortwood Teachers' College.

"Part of the problem I noticed when I came in was the strength level of the ladies," Thomas told The Gleaner in a recent interview.

"Netball requires you to move quickly, start fast, stop suddenly, so it takes a toll on the legs. So I implemented a strength-training programme, and that seems to have paid off tremendously."

Thomas has been able to take his physical education background into his assignment with the national team.

"I'm a trained person and I specialise in track and field training, therefore I can take a lot of that to what is happening here. I have the ability to analyse the demands of this particular sport and then tailor the fitness programme to the needs of it," he said.

He explained the thinking behind the new approach of participating in track and field competitions.

"It's because we laid a strong endurance base. Netball requires lots of starts and stops, and you're moving fast. You need to recover from that. So it's your endurance abilities that will enable you to recover quickly from that and keep a high intensity."

Thomas, who confessed to having plans to retire later this year, admits that the team still needs work.

"There are some persons in the squad who need to look at themselves and decide that you train with the national squad a few times per week, but other times you need to do something on your own. So there is that concern," said Thomas.

"Netball is an hour, so therefore you need that good endurance base to complement the speed and power that you require."