Mon | Mar 18, 2019

Orville Higgins | What is the problem in netball?

Published:Sunday | May 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Where netball Jamaica is concerned, it seems that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

In what is now appearing to be a disturbing trend, there is another case of a national coach having serious differences with the hierarchy of the Jamaica Netball Association. The latest case, of course, is that of Sasher Gaye Henry.

She cited two reasons, one being the almost expected "personal needs of my family," and the other being "my increasing concerns about continuing professional weaknesses in the administration." She did not go into any details about what those "professional weaknesses" were, but one cannot help but juxtapose her statements to some things that have been happening in the recent past as far as the national netball coaches are concerned.

Just about two years ago, former national coach Connie Francis came out, guns blazing, against the netball association. Francis was asked, along with Jermaine Allison-McCracken, to be co-coach for the team after the association interviewed both for the job and said that they saw weaknesses in both and, apparently, could not decide on who should be given the top job. She was not amused!

"What I realise is that I'm not wanted, and this didn't start right now. It started from Fast5 when I never got the support. The team never got the support from day one." Those were damning words, and one could write them off as Francis just being emotional after she didn't get what she wanted.

Her words came about three months after Minneth Reynolds resigned out of the blue. Her resignation came right on the heels of the Sunshine Girls winning a series 2-1 against England in England and when the general feeling was that Jamaica's netball was on an upward trajectory. Reynolds has never come out publicly to state what issues she may have had with the administration, but the impression was created that all was not well.

Wayne Lewis, who is part of the communication arm of the board, said that he was "surprised that she would have made the decision not to seek to renew her contract after the team just won a series abroad". Lewis, of course, was not the only one who was shocked at the sudden twist of events. The general public, and even people within netball circles, did not see this coming at all.

Of course,amid all of this was the resignation of Allison-McCracken last year after only a few months in charge. She never had the most auspicious of starts and found herself at daggers drawn with some of the senior players. Her resignation, when it came, was not surprising, and the netball association was only too happy to accept it. If we go back a few years to 2014, then coach Oberon Pitterson Nattie also parted ways with the association in not the most amicable of ways. There was a clause in her contract that she and the netball association could not see eye to eye on, and she described as "regrettable and unfortunate" the way the whole process was handled.

The raw truth is that there have been five coaches, in the last four years, who have left the association under a cloud of unhappiness. Is this mere coincidence? Is there something to Henry's claims that there are "continuing professional weaknesses in the administration".




In between these contentious (or at the very least, sudden,) parting of ways with the national coaches, there have also been issues with some of the senior players. Over the last few years, arguably the teams' two brightest stars in Romelda Aiken and Jhaniele Fowler have also gone public in voicing concerns. To say that Netball Jamaica has had its fair share of negative news in the last few years is an understatement. It always appears that more dramatic news is never too far away.

Despite all these issues, in some really strange way, it does not seem to affect the fortunes of the team itself. Jamaica's performance at the recent Commonwealth Games is arguably our best effort ever on the global stage. We were beaten by a mere point in the semi-final to the eventual winners, England, and upstaged New Zealand in the third-place playoff. A few weeks before, the Sunshine Girls took a four-nation tournament in New Zealand, beating the mighty hosts twice on their way to the trophy.

All the issues, real or imagined, are clearly not resulting in the team playing worse. If we go back to that 2-1 series against England in late 2016, one could make the case that the Sunshine Girls have had their best two-year run ever.

So what should we make of all the issues with the coaches in recent times? If we go by results, the administration is doing well and the coaches are being petty and unfair. If we go by the coaches, then there are glaring "professional weaknesses" in the organisation. How should we rule? I know the answer. Now, what say you?