Local netball is in disarray; the Antigua & Barbuda Netball Association (ABNA) is labeled by many as non-functional, and clubs have become inactive.
That was the assessment made by sources close to the association nearly a year ago, and the description seems to still fit.
Because of this, former association president and ex-national player Theresa Emanuel is calling for the sport to be totally overhauled; from the top – the Ministry of Sports – all the way to the ground level.
“You have to start at the grassroots, and build right back up. We need to take a page out of Jamaica’s book. They are the Caribbean champions, and we need to see what they’re doing that has made (their netball programme) reach where it is now,” said Emanuel on OBSERVER Radio’s Good Morning Jojo last week.
The Jamaican team – known as the Sunshine Girls – came fourth at last month’s Netball World Cup in Australia, and has placed third in three prior World Cup events.
According to Emanuel, if Antigua & Barbuda – currently unranked in world netball – is to ever rise to even close to these levels (or even close to its own former levels), a modernisation and whole-country programme needs to be launched.
“The rules (of netball) have changed; we have not changed with the rules, so if we go and play against a Caribbean country, we’re gonna get licks. So we need to get a programme which starts from the schools, and we need to tap in in every school in Antigua, not just a few, because we never know where the best players are,” said the former national team captain.
She continued, “We need to push (programmes) in the country-side; we have left them out, we need to get them back in, and have coaches who will dig in every school, and have netball played in every school in Antigua & Barbuda – even venturing to Barbuda,” noting that some of the best netball players historically came from rural areas.
Emanuel also called for large-scale training to be launched for coaches, to keep the country current with the ever-evolving rules of the game.
Speaking on the reluctance of clubs to pay registration fees until the association – most recently led by Ekua Richards – holds elections for vacant positions, Emanuel urged clubs to do away with this hesitation since, according to her, the ABNA constitution calls for all clubs to be “financial members” before they can have any bargaining power.
In light of the sport’s dire straits, she suggested the possibility of waiving outstanding fees, to encourage clubs to come to the table.
Emanuel, who served as president for four years until 2009, and is currently living overseas, has appealed for strong leadership and the assistance of all former players to help revitalise the sport locally.
The recent influence of the Concerned Netball Players group – a collection of enthusiasts & former players that held a community league two months ago – is considered a timely step in the right direction.
This group also plans to hold another event later this month.
For the sport to reach its former glory once again, however, much more is needed; at all levels, and from all sections.
Emanuel certainly thinks so.