Barbados’ senior netballers might be the ninth ranked team in the world but without adequate financial resources they may never realize their dream of being number one, says president of the Barbados Netball Association Nisha Cummins.
Speaking today after the opening ceremony for the Pine Hill Dairy-sponsored Primary Schools Netball Competition at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, Cummins spoke to Barbados TODAY about some of the money problems facing the number one sport played by women. She said the Barbados team had several upcoming games this year against South Africa who are ranked fifth in the world, Jamaica who are third in the world, and St Lucia, but due to lack of funding it would be very difficult to travel.
“The national team does not have a major sponsor and this was the case for a very long time. I believe LIME would have been our major sponsor years ago. We benefit from Gilbert which is the international sponsor for netball. We have upcoming invitational meets and in terms of what we need to prepare ourselves it is extremely difficult because it takes BDS$6 000 for just the airfare alone to go to South Africa and this has nothing to do with accommodation. This also has nothing to do with supplying uniforms, meals or medicals and each contingent leaves here with at least seventeen persons. So when you do the maths you will see the kind of figures we have to work with,” Cummins said
Cummins stated that even with Barbados’ ninth place world ranking, it took considerable hard work and a lot of team building for the team to even reach that stage.
“It is very expensive for us to maintain our team and I think we are doing a good job with the lack of resources that there is. The National Sports Council, the Ministry of Sports and the Barbados Olympic Association have been extremely good to us and that is why we survive. But we are not going to sit down and say we are at ninth, because we want to get better and in all of this we need financing to advance,” Cummins said.
The president also agreed with head of the Caribbean Netball Association, Kathy Harper- Hall, who recently spoke about the expense attached to playing netball in Barbados and the lack of incentives that eventually led to many netballers losing interest in the sport.
“Every time we use the Netball Stadium we have to pay, so even our local season is an expense for us and we would like very much to invite international teams to Barbados because it would help with our tourism. It would help with our standard of play as well because our netballers would be exposed to netball at an international level. The last international tournament that Barbados had here would have been in 2006 which was in preparation for a world tournament and I would love to go and bid for us to have an international tournament in Barbados. But at the end of the day you only have the gymnasium and everybody is aware of how expensive it is to use The Gymnasium,” she said.
Cummins also addressed the disenchantment which some females experienced with the sport.
“There are no academic scholarships in netball and sometimes we do lose players to stuff like that. But I must say their foundation is in netball and then they branch out to other sports. So it must mean we are doing something right. And we continue to attract players. If you look at our national programme which is the league season, we have seventy-four teams this year and thirty-four clubs. So we continue to grow,” Cummins said.
She pointed out that the BNA would be looking at some incentives for the division one level which is the highest level of netball in Barbados. She noted there was no other team sport in Barbados that was ranked so high in world and they would be looking to take the game to the next level in Barbados with the necessary support.
Cummins, who took up the post of president two years ago, said there was growing concern about the lack of qualified coaches on the island with Anna Shepherd and Harriett Waithe being the only two highly qualified coaches.
“We don’t have a netball specific coaching course. We have had coaching courses but a lot of our coaches are coaching from their experience as players and not necessarily that they are formally trained to coach. So it would be of assistance if we could get something in place that we could get the level of play and standard a little higher to help in making us more competitive. We are speaking with the stakeholders to see if we can have some coaching courses. In August this year we have four coaches that would be exposed to a regional course and we are hoping that if we continue to get more persons on these courses that it would filter down and enhance where we are at right now,” Cummins said.