Sunday, March 3, 2024

Meet the Brownes


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IN 1991 JACQUELINE BROWNE, now McConney, emerged from the heart of rural St Thomas to blaze a trail on the Barbados netball team in the regional championships being played at home at the Netball Stadium.

What was so remarkable about the achievement of the former St James Secondary student was that she was breaking into a tough national team boasting the likes of Sonia Banfield, Marilyn Thornhill, Sandra Bruce, Margaret Greaves and Marion Johnson. 

Jackie, as she is more popularly called, was also paving the way for her two daughters, Sabrina and Samantha as well as sister Mellsia Browne and her two daughters Sade and Shonte Browne to fashion a legacy of domestic and international netball by the Brownes. That legacy would have seen the Brownes taking the National Sports Council’s Family Award in 2011.

Jackie was attracted to the game of netball from age seven and with the support of her family she was able to showcase her ability at secondary school and later developed that talent at Pine Hill St Barnabas where she played all her club life. That is the same club which all of her children and their aunt and cousins have represented.

The home and club support also played a great role in assisting Jackie when she gave birth to first Sabrina and then Samantha. 

“My family helped out so that I could continue playing for St Barnabas and Barbados and I would often take my daughters to practice and matches and someone at the club would be always willing to look after them when I was on the court.

“With such an upbringing it was little surprise that Samantha and Sabrina, who attended St Thomas Primary, Welches and then Eden Lodge Primary, started playing netball from the time that they could hold the ball,” said Jackie.

With Jackie as a role model as a woman and a netball player, Samantha, who attended Ellerslie Secondary and Sabrina, who went to Springer Memorial, followed the path of turning out for St Barnabas and taking part in Barbados’ junior programmes and teams.

In 2006 the Brownes created history and almost scored the trifecta with both Jackie and Samantha being selected on the team to the Commonwealth Games in Australia while Sabrina was made a reserve.  “I really felt happy to see my daughter making the same team that I was on,” said Jackie.

Samantha described the experience as thrilling. “My mother and all of us have always been very close.  We do not live with her anymore but we talk . . . every day and make to visit regularly.  So you can imagine the joy I felt to make the Barbados team and to have my netball idol, my mother, on that team,” stated Samantha.

“Although I had started playing netball from about eight I was never pressured as a member of the Browne family. I had seen how netball had helped to motivate my mother and that generated my love for the sport.”

While Sabrina has not earned as many caps as Samantha since making the senior team in 2011 she still dreams of continuing the Browne’s netball legacy by representing the island with her sister. Unfortunately, Sabrina suffered an injury in 2012 which has kept her out of action since.

During that period, she gave birth to her daughter Zaniah Smith who Jackie describes as “the apple of her eye”. However, Jackie may not approve of Sabrina’s plans for Zaniah since Sabrina wants her daughter to focus on something outside of netball.

“Netball has done a lot for my family in terms of popularity and getting the opportunities to represent Barbados in various countries throughout the world. But, netball is limited in terms of getting academic or financial support so I am hoping that my daughter would go into track and field or volleyball where she could get a scholarship,” said Sabrina.

One of the Brownes who leans heavily towards the academics is Sade who attended Combermere. Sade is in her second year at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill studying management with a concentration in finance. She was motivated to play netball by her mother Mellsia and aunt Jackie.  That motivation saw Sade becoming a successful under-16 Jean Pierre (Caribbean) tournament captain for Barbados.

“Right now my greater focus is on my studies and any free time I give to St Barnabas division one as well as training for the Blackbirds who will represent Cave Hill at the UWI Games this year. After my studies I am hoping to fight to make the Barbados senior team,” stated Sade.

Shonte who attended The Alleyne School, considers that she has been unlucky to be cut from training in the last batch before national teams were selected.  “I have not been as successful as my aunt or cousins but like my mum I give of my best whenever I turn out for my club St Barnabas.

Speaking of Mellsia, she would have also played some hockey while attending St Leonard’s Girls and after playing reserve for St Barnabas division one she broke into the side to command a starting spot on the champion squad. “Just like Jackie, I started playing from small and during the years when we did not have transportation someone from the club would always ensure that we were taken to a point to get back home to St Thomas safely,” Mellsia said.

Jackie has not set a time for when she will retire from playing and focus totally on coaching which she also does for the Blackbirds and St Barnabas juniors.  Similarly, she has not given up on returning to basketball which she had played for Tiger and Clapham Bulls while representing Barbados at two Caribbean championships.

“I am presently enjoying my coaching and helping to raise Zaniah. I am hoping that my family and I can continue to experience the best of health so that we can continue enjoying the sport that we love for a long as possible,” added Jackie.


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