Thursday, April 25, 2024

Tackle indiscipline!


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WHEN?NISHA CUMMINGS was elected president of the Barbados Netball Association (BNA) last year,  I began to hope for change.
The sport had taken a marked downhill turn in the previous term and it would require a Herculean effort to bring the island’s top female sport back to the lofty heights it once enjoyed, but the first step had been made. One thumb up.
When the executive decided to make some changes to the running of the tournaments, it was also a positive sign that it wouldn’t be business as usual.
First, there was the inaugural Fast5 Competition which culminated at the Wildey Gymnasium. There weren’t as many teams as expected, but the offering of $1 000, small when compared to the sums other sports get, also received  a nod of approval.
The money could have been split between the top teams instead of the winner-take-all format, but that also heralded positive change.
The Division 1 section of the league is also in for some changes. Instead of playing two rounds and the team with the most wins taking home the trophy, teams will now play off for one of four final positions enroute to choosing  the winner.
One can only hope this will also translate into a high quality  of play throughout the tournament. Two thumbs up.
Then came the season’s opening ceremony and I ran out of thumbs.
The ceremony was taking place on the same night as the finals of the Fast5 Competition, and I was pleasantly pleased to see the large turnout by the clubs and spectators.
The candle-lighting ceremony was a master stroke. It involved all of the major stake holders from the Government/National Sports Council, Barbados Olympic Association, clubs, players and officials. They all lit a candle symbolizing a new beginning, a light shining as a beacon throughout the season. Three thumbs up.
Despite a rainy evening, netball fans came out in their numbers to watch three of the four knockout finals recently. Two of those three matches went down to the wire, decided by one goal.
Spooners Hill edged Pine Hill St Barnabas 20-19 to take the Intermediate 1 title, but St Barnabas turned the tables, edging them 44-43 to take the senior title. Newbury Ballers  hammered Fusion 30-10  for the Intermediate 2 crown.
There were some audience giveaways, a raffle to raise funds and the national teams also ran a concession stand to try and raise funds for overseas tours.  There was no bad behaviour and although emotions ran high during  the matches, it was a good evening. Four thumbs up.
But on Easter Weekend,  things took a downward turn.
Imagine, with more than 1 000 registered netballers, their husbands, boyfriends, children, family members and numerous acquaintances, the BNA Fair at Weymouth was a flop.
Once could argue that it was too soon to take on such a big task, but having gone ahead with the event,  the support from the netballers  should have been overwhelming.
Since I was at the CARIFTA Games in The Bahamas at the time, I can only go by reports which said most of the clubs did not attend the event and only one took the opportunity to operate  a stall. One thumb down.
Now, we have an incident where  a coach and an umpire were involved in a verbal exchange which resulted in the coach being tossed from the bench.
Both parties were at fault. If they respected each other and what they came to do, it would never have reached that stage. The sport, after all, is for the players and not for coaches, umpires  or officials to build a name. It is for the benefit of Barbados who need to move up in the world rankings.  Two thumbs down.
Indiscipline has taken up residence  in netball. Players and some umpires are arriving at the Netball Stadium late. Matches are starting after the scheduled time. Players think they have the right to quarrel and complain on court, jawing at referees. Some of them come off and take up the whistle, exacting their revenge on the players from another team or club.
Recently, the Jamaica Netball Association banned former captain Simone Forbes for her conduct  at their venue. It is time the BNA  amend their constitution with rules specifically governing player  and official conduct. Many would think twice before they open their mouths.
The state of umpiring –  not so much a BNA issue –  will be dealt with in another article.
The season is still young  and there is ample time  for a turnaround, but right now,  that candle light doesn’t seem to be burning very brightly.


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