Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Coach Babb marked man


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ON?THE?MORNING of October 11, some members of the netball community woke up and turned on their radios and computers, hoping that the Barbados team had been beaten by Trinidad and Tobago at the Commonwealth Games.
Hard to believe, but it is true!
It is not that they were rooting for Trinidad or even against Barbados. No, they were hoping to see the downfall of head coach Alwyn Babb.
They were hoping he would fail in his great experiment to climb the international rankings so they could point fingers with knowing smiles and say “I told you so.”
Babb is a polarising figure. The coach can be brutally frank, and his brand of honesty doesn’t sit well with many.
His appointment generated lots of debate, and many with more experience questioned his credentials and the wisdom of the board of the Barbados Netball Association.
Although he had been around the sport for many years, his success was in  athletics and that has been well documented.
Coaching Spooners Hill in the local league was not generally considered the foundation upon which the transformation of a national programme would take place.
Spooners Hill have more swagger than success and, like Babb, others in the club have not endeared themselves with stinging comments and criticisms shouted from the stands during matches.
Babb also had a few run-ins with some of those who vaunted themselves among the coaching and netball elite.
But his plan to transform the team made perfect sense to the BNA board, and it was one of the things president Octavia Gibson spoke of when his appointment was announced.
“It was something new and radical and we are looking forward to seeing what kind of results we get from that.
“Rather than just going with what was going before, it was the willingness to try some new methods.
“You know that he would’ve produced a couple of world-class athletes and I think the [Coaching Advisory] Committee and the board would have been ready to go a different route,” Gibson said at that time.
Babb’s plan was to gradually pick off those ahead of Barbados, but when they were whipped 81-20 by England (ranked eight places above Barbados) in the team’s first Commonwealth Games match, the snide remarks could be heard at the Netball Stadium during the Under-19 Competition.
The critics were silenced by the victories over Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea, but they came back with a vengeance after the 97-22 defeat by eventual champions New Zealand.
They, like England, had never beaten Barbados by such a large margin, and the critics were sharpening their claws for another defeat against Trinidad, who had our number since 2004.
The players pulled off the upset, but that only means the detractors are going to be even angrier should he fail to do better at the World Championships next year.
Babb and his management team have to be praised for the sterling job they did in preparing a team with a new system in less than a year.
Those women also deserve all the respect and accolades for what they were able to accomplish.
It is the first time in my more than ten years association with the sport that the players have returned from a major competition and no one has resigned or is threatening to resign.
That speaks volumes to the fact that the coach has not only been able to garner their respect, but get them to buy in to what he is trying to do.
But we were sixth at the World Championships in 1987, 11th eight years later.
We were seventh in 2003 and dropped to 13th in four years.
We want to see more consistency. We want the confidence of knowing our Barbados team is going to win before they step on court, at least among the teams in the second tier.
We’ve been here before, but if they are not given the resources (financial and otherwise) they need, Babb may as well resign now, because he is being set up to fail. And that is all the critics will see, not the reasons for any failure.


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