Fri | Jan 15, 2021

Laurie Foster | Fans and their sporting heroes

Published:Wednesday | February 12, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Members of Jamaica’s national senior women’s netball team, the Sunshine Girls, huddle during a match against England in the 2018 Sunshine Series at the National Indoor Sports Centre.

There is a striking similarity regarding how their fans have responded to recent performances of teams in two sports in which Jamaicans participate on the international stage. The disciplines in question are West Indies cricket played by the male gender and women’s netball, as engaged by Jamaicans and affectionately called the Sunshine Girls. In recent times, they have both come in for adverse criticism for not measuring up to opponents in a manner not in keeping with expectations.

The former, despite promises of ‘turning the corner’ now and then, whatever that is perceived to be, has not been able to sustain a winning effort which, at one time or another, seemed to be inevitable. It is as though the team’s manner of play is to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This, as voiced by several of the most committed supporters, has proven to be a major turn-off and has brought about a serious loss of interest. From this comes the frequent cry at times when the game is being played at venues on the other side of the world, “I nah lose nuh more sleep over dem bwoy nuh more, yuh hear sah.”


In the case of the netballers, the cries of ­disgust and dismay are of more recent vintage. The team entered the last world-level tournament on the crest of a wave of successes. They had been perennial bridesmaids to the world powers of Australia, New Zealand and more, recently, England. They had just celebrated victories over both New Zealand and England and were expected to give a much better display of their undoubted talent with the big prize of championships winners, not beyond their capabilities. All these positives were dashed by what was seen to be a most disappointing performance. They were beaten by South Africa, which is something the African team had not done for several tournaments. It must have been cause for introspection and a need to do what was necessary to raise their ranking from the No. 4 position they occupied after those encounters.

Their next engagement was in late January 2020, when the Sunshine Girls took part in a tournament in England consisting of the top five teams in the world. They placed second to New Zealand. A long-time correspondent of Foster’s Fairplay contacted us and gave a most appreciated story. On the way to that tournament, a member of the team, Shadian Hemmings, stopped off in Hartford, Connecticut, in the USA to spend some time with her sister. The report came from Michael Chambers, who is the executive director of the Cricket Hall of Fame in that part of the country.

The organisation which recently honoured Jamaican cricket icon Maurice Foster, took the opportunity to recognise Miss Hemmings and she was given a citation and a plaque. Dr Dolton James, director of the Cricket Hall of Fame, presented Miss Hemmings with a Cricket Hall of Fame Certificate of Appreciation “for her hard work and ­dedication to the sport of Netball.” Dr James remarked that “public sector and governments needed to show our athletes how much we appreciate them.” Miss Hemmings also received similar certificates on behalf of other members of the team which played in the tournament.

Joy Chance, executive director of the West Indian Foundation, presented Miss Hemmings with a book, titled Winning Strokes, written by Chambers. Chambers explained that he noticed the “Sunshine Girls and the West Indies cricket team were both experiencing the same difficulty of underperforming in crucial games.” He added that “there were four items necessary to be a champion – mindfulness, visualisation, emotional intelligence training and the successful control of post-traumatic stress disorder”. Chambers encouraged Miss Hemmings to read the book, practise the theory, and pass on the knowledge to her ­teammates. She was also the recipient of a miniature cricket bat, signed by all present. Miss Hemmings thanked the gathering for their hospitality, and promised that if and when possible, the Sunshine Girls would be happy make a special trip to Hartford.

Foster’s Fairplay wishes to commend all those who put in the effort to host this function. It was a fitting tribute to an individual and her team who endure the sacrifices required to represent their country. It shows that when they take the field of play in good times or bad, there are persons who appreciate their challenges and ask no more than to see them do well.

Maximum respect to the people of Hartford, Connecticut, who organised this function to send a message of support not only to Miss Hemmings, but the entire team of Sunshine Girls – Good job, diaspora.