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‘I gave everything’ - Bernard reflects on contribution to netball

Published:Sunday | November 22, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivingston Scott
Bernard

After 10 years at the helm, charismatic netball president Marva Bernard rode off into the sunset at the end of her tenure as Netball Jamaica's president, convinced she had done her very best.

Even though the country did not win a medal at the Netball World Cup in Australia in August, the veteran administrator is proud she left behind a lasting legacy and solid foundation on which future administrators of the sport can continue to build.

Bernard spent 12 years as treasurer of the netball association before she was elected to the top post in 2005.

She is responsible for taking the association from a struggling to a thriving entity, rearranging the administration's structure so that it could run as a business.

"I was able to convince the prime minister to give us a house for our national players and that is an achievement many of the presidents before me wanted. I was able to get players overseas in professional and semi-professional leagues in England and Australia. I am happy that the relationships I have made with Australia, New Zealand and England have helped us," she said.

 

UNPRECEDENTED FUNDING

 

While former presidents found it difficult to generate funds, Bernard, through persistence, was able to convince sponsors to invest in netball, which brought about unprecedented funding and greater support for programmes and players in ways never seen before.

Senior team players were given a stipend each month, new programmes that made many high school girls qualified umpires or near-qualified umpires were also incorporated.

"They (sponsors) are proud to be associated with netball. We have built on what others that have gone before us left behind, and we helped to make netball a household game," she said.

However, she desired nothing more than the coveted World Cup gold medal.

"The biggest disappointment was not being able to win a medal at the World Cup, but that is sports, that is life. But if you go for something and you do not succeed, you try and try again," she said.

"I am proud that since the rankings was introduced in 2007, even though we have not played as many matches as the higher-ranked teams like England, we are still better than many countries in the world that have much better resources than we have," she added.

 

GREAT DISRESPECT

 

The backlash against the team from the World Cup disappointment left a bitter taste in Bernard's mouth.

"Jamaicans only respect medals, and we suffered great disrespect because we did not get a medal. They quickly forgot the (bronze) medal we won at the Commonwealth Games. But netball is something that we have to be proud of," she insisted.

She backs new president Dr Paula Daley Morris to take the association forward and would like to see her complete some of the projects like the two-year-old semi-professional league.

"We had a specific plan, but the new association (leadership) will have to forge their own plans ..., so it is for Paula and her team to look at it and see what they can manage. But she must be given the opportunity to lead the association in the direction she sees fit.

"I would like to see it continue because semi-professional is the way to go. England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are not fools in doing it. We must also grow the parish associations so they can be vibrant," she said.

Bernard will continue to contribute to netball in her new capacity as treasurer of the Federation of Americas Netball Association. However, her focus will be on her family business, and she has no aspiration of making it to the top netball post (International Netball Federation president).

"I want a break. For 20 years I have been in netball non-stop, and 10 years of hard labour as president, so my time has come," she declared.

The election of the new president, Daley Morris, was shrouded in controversy, with some four lawyers required to cipher the articles of the association.

"The articles were done by a reputable law firm, and all the lawyers who looked at it said there was nothing to prevent a director from seeking a higher post. In the final analysis, we chose one leader and we should move on.

"In the past not many people wanted to support us, but now that my board has taken it to this level several people want to serve. But it should not be that we have to go through such acrimony because it's a voluntary service.

"We want to put this election behind us and accept the decision. I want us to put aside our feelings and behave appropriately. If we can't do that then there is going to be division. In life there is going to be differences of opinion, but I know we all want what is best for netball," she reasoned.

Bernard walks away knowing she gave her best to the sport.

"I leave the sport knowing that I gave everything and more. I leave the sport knowing that I helped move it from one stage to the next. I leave the sport knowing that I did not embarrass the foremothers and that netball became a household game."