That’s seems to be the question surrounding the controversy of player eligibility, between Blackman and Gollop and the National Sports Council (NSC), in the ongoing 2015 Pine Hill Dairy-sponsored Primary Schools Netball Tournament.
Blackman and Gollop have entered A and B teams in the competition and the NSC has insisted that both squads cannot be made up of class 4 pupils. The school has had to endure a situation where other teams have been refusing to play against them.
But as far as Blackman and Gollop’s coach Calvin Briggs is concerned, his school is being the victim of one of the highest forms of bullying. During an interview with Barbados TODAY, Briggs said the NSC was well aware that Blackman and Gollop could not challenge their decision or take them to court and therefore he saw the sports council’s actions as a form of bullying.
“They know we cannot take them to court; they know that we work for the Ministry of Education and they fall under the Ministry of Sports and therefore we would not be able to take them to court because we all work for the same Government. But what I do not understand is that you tell our primary school girls and boys not to bully; as well as our secondary school students. But yet you have a Government organization trying to bully another,” Briggs said.
Briggs has been one of the more successful netball coaches in the schools system. To date he has won three championships while at St Mary’s Primary, who ironically were in a similar situation when he was the physical education teacher at the school. His other title came last year with Blackman and Gollop’s A team who are the defending champions.
According to Briggs the situation surrounding Blackman and Gollop B team started at the opening ceremony of the competition two weeks ago when both his A and B teams made it into the finals of the shoot-out tournament at the Wildey Gymnasium. He noted that prior to that there were no objections from any of the NSC’s officials until they made it into the finals.
“When Blackman and Gollop A made it to the finals and the B team five minutes later, then this issue arose. Nobody wanted to officiate the game. Miss [Anna] Shepherd [senior NSC coach/official] then told me the Saturday morning [of the same week] by a phone conversation that she did not like how it looked and she did not want the final to be Blackman and Gollop A versus Blackman and Gollop B and she would like me to combine the two teams into one. And if I would be willing to combine the two teams into one, the sports council would be willing to accept my C team into the tournament who are also Class 4 children. I said no,” he revealed.
Briggs said Shepherd told him he was breaking the rules with the involvement of multiple teams of class 4 pupils.
“I told her: ‘Miss Shepherd, show me the rule that I have broken’. I said all children at primary school are developmental but I do not see how we can have a B team being developmental and the A team being what, defined as masters?”
Briggs said when he and his team turned up on May 13 for a game he was told by Shepherd that the schools had agreed that they would not be playing against Blackman and Gollop. He said they were scheduled to play against Mount Tabor but that team did not take to the court. The reason given, he said, that it was unfair that his class four students were playing against their class four children.
“I queried why the game was not officially blown off and [awarded to Blackman and Gollop] and was told they do not do that at the primary level,” Briggs explained, adding he had spoken to Shepherd at the start of the competition to find out if there would be an issue with his school entering two teams as they had done last year. Briggs said he was informed there would be no issues.
The coach pointed out that Blackman and Gollop’s B team which is at the centre of the entire controversy, more so than the A team, continued to turn up at various venues hoping to play, parents continued to give their children money to pay for the bus, supporters came to support the team but they have not been able to play any games.
“It is really limiting us even to say we should only have two teams. I am yet to understand why you are limiting us because in four months time all of these children here will go on to secondary school. They would not belong to Blackman and Gollop. I have no interest keeping them together as a team, even parents asked if I have interest in keeping them together as a team and I have no interest in that. I coach them at primary school, I pass them on and it brings me great joy to see them continue in the sport.”
Briggs said what he found most amazing was the fact that the same players in the B team who the NSC was asking the school drop from the competition were chosen to be part of a developmental programme being conducted by Shepherd.
He revealed that they have yet to hear about the status of the games and that the only communication the NSC had so far with the school was when they wrote the principal and had asked her to merge the two teams.
According to Briggs the principal wrote back and told the NSC she did not see the rule which said that the B team had to be Class 3s and if the NSC could provide her with that rule or point her in the direction of that rule, she would be willing to comply. Nothing else has since been conveyed to the school.
Efforts to reach Shepherd were unsuccessful.