By Morissa Lindsay
Netball in Barbados has hit rock bottom and qualifying for international tournaments means nothing if you are unable to deliver and perform when you get into competition, says national stalwart Marva Sealy as she raised a number of concerns regarding the state of the sport locally.
Sealy who represented the Barbados team from 1964 to 1979 and was among a few to play for the West Indies, pinpointed a few issues facing netball and among those was the senior women’s team being unfit, the current coaches being unable to deliver and that the netball coaching staff at the National Sports Councils (NSC) needs restructuring.
During an interview with Barbados TODAY, Sealy reasoned that Barbados’ netball is at a low point because it is based in the Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA) group which she contended is the poorest grouping. She also made reference to the fact that just recently a very young Jamaica team on home soil also defeated the Bajan Gems in the just concluded Americas Netball World Cup qualifiers.
Sealy noted that there are many who seem to think that her commentary on local netball is from a negative viewpoint but in her humble opinion as an icon of the sport and as a daughter of the soil who loves her country, she just wants to see Barbados’ netball do well on the international stage.
Therefore, Sealy, a former NSC netball coach stated that unless the powers that be start taking constructive criticisms and note the suggestions being put forward from people who have been there before, she believes that things will continue to remain the same and Barbados’ netball will not improve.
“The problem is that Barbados netball team is unfit, full stop, and therefore we can’t produce a good level of netball. The next side is that they can’t pass, they don’t know how to pass the ball, their passes are weak so they are easy to intercept. Sometimes they don’t know how to put the ball in the spaces, all of those things are showing up in Barbados’ netball. There is a fellow that used to be around netball and basketball, he always used to say they are like a baker shop – too many turnovers,” Sealy explained.
“My thing about netball in Barbados is that it has gone rock bottom and we have to start at the beginning where it begins. The sports council needs to restructure the netball coaching staff, it has to start there because I noticed and I made the comment just before COVID, that I went to the primary schools final and the level was not good. We have hit rock bottom and to me it has to start at the sports council.
“I think there are coaches at the sports council who can go home and bring in fresh ones. And not only bring them in but you have to guide them as well, don’t just throw them in the deep end although they may have been coaching before. We also have this bad habit of pushing players into positions and not teaching them the basics and if you don’t have the basics you cannot develop into anything so you have to teach them moving of your feet and so on,” she added.
The icon suggested that the Barbados Netball Association led by President Nisha Craigwell should consider hiring coaching personnel that can focus on the three most critical areas of the game which consists of offence, midcourt and defence. Sealy stressed netball is all about timing and rhythm and emphasized on the need to have a specialized midcourt coach, because in her opinion and as someone who understands fully what it takes to play that position, this is the worst she has ever seen in the history of local netball.
“In my day they had only one coach but today they have two and three, now if you are having two and three, my suggestion would have been a shooting coach, a midcourt coach and a defensive coach. Don’t just pick three coaches, have three that can work in that area and they are people out there that can do that. Our midcourt is the worst midcourt I have ever seen in Barbados,” Sealy stated.
While offering some suggestions on who she thinks may be best suited to take up the mantle and coach these particular areas, Sealy put forward former Barbados centre player Marilyn Thornhill to do the job in that department as well as current NSC staff member Sandrene Jordan to coach the defence position.
Sealy also believes that BNA head coach Margaret Cutting and assistant Adrian Craigwell should be replaced because they have not been able to deliver and produce the type of results required.
She also explained that while Barbados was able to qualify recently in Jamaica for the 2023 Netball World Cup in South Africa, unless some drastic changes are made from now, the team will waste money to travel and be disgraced like how they did at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
According to Sealy, the only bright prospect coming out of the just concluded Americas Netball World Cup qualifiers in Jamaica for Barbados was goal-shooter Faye Agard and her incredible performances.
Sealy, who coached the Barbados senior women’s team in the past, said in her capacity as coach she had many sleepless nights because in her mind, she kept going over what she should have done and what she did not do when she should have done it. Sealy therefore questioned whether the coaches of today do the same.
She added: “We qualified but unless we do something extraordinary to get rid of the two of them coaches, we are going to spend a bunch of money to go South Africa and be disgraced like how we were for the Commonwealth Games. It is alright to say we qualified and then you hear people saying how many caps they have for Barbados, how many who, caps? Netball is a team sport and your focus should be on winning.”