Basketball in Barbados is on a downslope, says national point-guard Toni Atherley who led Cougars to the title two nights ago in the #1 Beauty Supplies and Exchange Barbados Amateur Basketball Association Women’s League final.
The former Barbados captain who played for Fresno State University Division One team in the United States of America back in 2006, said that even though a vibrant youth programme was on the rise, she did not believe futuristically it would make a difference.
The 34-year-old prolific guard said that until players acquired a greater appreciation for practising and understood that the fundamentals of the game were a necessity, Barbados would continue to remain behind when they came up against other countries.
“Overall basketball in Barbados is down. However, I think with the males we have a lot of younger guys coming around especially from the Pine. They train consistently, and I believe basketball for men is bright. The only problem we have is that we don’t have a lot of taller players, a lot of players over six feet, but I think we have a robust youth programme.
“We see it when we go to international tournaments, we are way behind, speed wise, skill wise, and it starts through coaching and practice. In general, Barbadians don’t like to practise, and you can’t go and play other countries without practising and honing your skills. You get over there, you get embarrassed. So, I think we need to get on the court a lot more if we want to take it to the next level and keep up with other countries, we got to get more serious. And I know it is difficult because those people are paid to play basketball. We got to go to work and then come to play basketball, and sometimes when you leave work, you don’t want to play any basketball, so that’s the difference,” Atherley said.
The talented athlete was named most valuable player having registered a game-high 33-points that led Cougars to victory 2-1 over last year’s champions Preferred Insurance Brokers Pinelands in the best of three women’s league final.
Atherley wants to see the sustainability of women’s basketball and called on the Barbados Amateur Basketball Association to put in place a strategic plan going forward. One, she added, that would chart the way forward for the sport over the next few years. She explained that was the only way basketball especially the women’s game could develop.
“They need a two, three-year strategic plan to get women’s basketball back on track. We need help going back into the schools, starting from primary and coming through to secondary. We need a lot of volunteers going back into the schools on the weekend to get women interested in basketball,” said Atherley who referred to netball which has seven divisions.
“Women are interested in netball but really and truly basketball is where you can get out of Barbados and get a scholarship. So, we need to get some of those netballers to play basketball, and they [netballers] are very athletic,” she expressed.
Undoubtedly the best female basketball player in Barbados presently, Atherley disclosed that she was currently in talks with three other veteran players Sade Clarke, Tamisha Flatts along with Jennifer- Joseph Hackett also a certified international basketball federation referee about teaching young girls fundamentals of the game.
“Fundamentals are lacking from watching the girls play, and that is what basketball is based on. Before you can do anything else, you need to sort out the fundamentals and once you have that you can do anything in basketball,” Atherley said, while indicating her uncertainty whether she would return next year.
“I will have to think about that; I am like Dwyane Wade, this time I want to go out on a high, I don’t think I could do this next year. I don’t know if I can do this next year again, the league is down right now, so you got to wait and see if there is a season for females next year. Three teams aren’t cutting it at all; we need six, seven teams to make it competitive.”