One of the region’s finest netballers is calling for the establishment of a professional Caribbean netball league to advance the sport across the islands.
Trinidad and Tobago professional netballer Kalifa McCollin, currently staying in Barbados until approval is granted by the twin-island republic for her to return home, told Barbados TODAY that in order for the league to become a reality, regional netballers needed more development and the sport required a lot more marketing. She said the islands have a wealth of talent and with proper marketing and exposure Caribbean netballers could be a force with which to reckon on the international scene.
“We need to start developing our talents here within the region first. We don’t get enough playing time against each other. If you look at the African nations, they play each other all the time, like year-round, they are just travelling and playing with each other within that region, we don’t. Trinidad is quite close to Barbados and we don’t get that contact time with each other.
“So, I think that it is really important to allow players to be playing because those games are streamed live and everybody tunes into netball wherever in the world it is happening. I think that needs to happen more, we need to be playing each other, Jamaica, Barbados Trinidad just need to have a tri-series this month, a couple of months later play against each other and that helps build the talent within the region, “ McCollin said.
She added: “ It allows players to be seen, allows players to come through and allows players to grow. I think that is really important and that hasn’t been happening for quite some time. So, I think that would make a difference and hopefully in some years to come, we have our own professional league within the region.
“What we don’t do well enough is market our sport and players, we don’t do that well enough. So, yes, you want sponsors but how are you going to do that, what can you give those sponsors in return? I think they both go hand in hand. Sometimes you just need to say ‘I don’t have the funding now, let’s try to have a fundraiser, let’s try to generate that income’. There is a lot of work that needs to be done with Caribbean netball and I think it can happen. We can get where we want to be but I think we just need to have the right vision and go forward with it.”
The 25-year-old and fellow countrywoman and goalkeeper Daystar Swift have been in Barbados for close to two weeks awaiting permission to return their homeland as a consequence of the COVID-19 restrictions. The two recently completed the netball season in New Zealand where they played professionally for different teams. McCollin featured on the court for Southern Steel in her first outing and they finished fifth overall in the ANZ Premiership. Swift’s team Northern Stars were just ahead in fourth place.
On arrival in Barbados the ladies were tested twice and the results were negative each time which allowed them to leave the Marriott Hotel where they initially stayed and then to take up residency elsewhere.
As it stands McCollin said that they were still awaiting word from the Ministry of National Security having written to them but received only an automated response. She noted that it was tough being away from their family for a year now but would remain patient until they received positive news on when they could return home.
“I think we can hold out but it is kind of tough because we have been away from our families for a very long time, for almost a year. But we both know that we just have to be patient and believe that something is going to happen soon,” McCollin explained.
So far on her resume, McCollin has plied her trade in Wales for two years and this was her first time playing professionally in New Zealand, the reigning World Cup champions.
Describing the season as a tough one competing for Southern Steel, McCollin explained that after her team lost two of their top goal-shooters, it forced her to step up and play that position. But for her, it was a good experience nonetheless.
“I think it was a massive step up from the UK league, it is a lot more physical out there. It is a bit more competitive because I think all of the teams are evenly skilled and evenly matched. So most of the games are quite close, and it was a really good experience,” she added.
The talented 180cm tall (5’ 10”) goal-attack began playing the sport at age six and over the years has improved into one of the Caribbean’s best. McCollin came through the netball ranks for Trinidad and Tobago as an Under-16, Under-21 and senior player before playing professionally.