Netball team lauded for discipline

– clinics for schoolchildren on the agenda

By Tamica Garnett
Though the Guyana Under-16 Netball team returned without the ultimate victory from the recently concluded Caribbean Netball Association (CAN) Under-16 Jean Pierre Championship, they did not return empty-handed.

Maxine Parris-Aaron

The players were commended for exemplary discipline and the good quality teamwork on and off the court. They won an award for being the most improved and most disciplined competing team.

The team’s vigorous training was evident in their performance as they got off to a sturdy start before they ran cold. The team marginally won their first match against Bermuda (29-28), while their struggle against St Kitts ended in a draw (29-29). However, this performance surpassed last year’s in Jamaica, where the team lost all of their matches.

Guyana Netball Association Secretary Lawrence Griffith said he believes this year’s improvement had a lot to do with the athletes’ physique, stating that most of the other teams’ athletes were much taller. This disadvantage was greater last year when Guyana’s athletes were younger and much smaller.

Griffith said that while the other teams are more advanced in their skill level the Guyanese are on par with them when it comes to the developmental aspects of the game. Meanwhile, in addition to the CNA Championship, the GNA held a 16 and Under Club Tournament for the varying local netball teams. It has also begun the training of the senior squad from which the senior team will be selected, and intends to host the under-23 and open competitions, in May and June of this year.

Griffith noted that the limited number of netball teams in Guyana constricts the local competitions; multiple contests are rendered redundant. This makes it challenging for the athletes to improve their game. However, the GNA tries to balance this off with extensive training sessions.

There are at present five active clubs which fall under the GNA: the Fearless Flyers from Essequibo, Doves Netball Club from Berbice, and Rim Rockerz, Emani and All Stars from Demerara. The association wishes to expand but said this has proved challenging.

Sport Minister Dr Frank Anthony had last year pledged that should the association be able to install the sport in schools the ministry was prepared to sponsor trophies for competitions. President of the association, Dr Maxine Parris-Aaron, stated that this offer was deficient since while the support would be greatly appreciated, taking netball into schools would require much more than trophies.

“The minister offered trophies for the competitions. Unfortunately trophies alone do not make a competition. The schools need facilities and time to practice for the tournament and none of that exists in our school system,” said Parris-Aaron.

“But we agreed to try, since that is the professional thing to do,” she added.

Parris-Aaron stated that though school’s netball is the Sport Ministry’s responsibility the GNA offered to work along with the ministry to make the prospect a reality. The association, the ministry’s Netball Coach, Lavern Fraser-Thomas and a few of her colleagues have since approached several schools, but efforts have been futile thus far.

“We have been unable to get schools to respond even after we wrote letters and went to visit them,” said Parris-Aaron

As an alternative, Parris-Aaron said, after discussions with netball coaches, Lawrence Kellman and Randolph Critchlow, a decision was taken to try hosting weekend clinics for primary and secondary schools students who are interested in netball.

The GNA hopes to get the first of these clinics underway in the second quarter of the year and the venues are the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall and the National Gymnasium.

In the past the GNA had expressed the hope of acquiring their own facility in an attempt to better expand the predominantly female sport. However that prospect is still in its theoretical stages, since finance is a major challenge.

Like most of Guyana’s sporting associations, the GNA finds financial support difficult to attain. The bulk of its funding comes from fundraisers, small contributions from the corporate sector, and personal donations from kind individuals.

Travelling tax waivers and exemptions for teams travelling overseas are the extent of the ministry’s contribution to the GNA and their pursuits. The Sport Ministry has not opened its pockets to the association in two years, with its last diminutive donation of $40,000 being made in 2008.

Efforts to get in touch with the minister for a comment on why the GNA was extended no financial assistance, were futile. However, Director of Sport Neil Kumar was contacted and he said the GNA has not been operating as it should and had not submitted their audited financial statements.

This was contradicted by both Griffith and Parris-Aaron who alleged that Dr Anthony had recently commended the GNA for being among the few sporting associations that submitted their financial statements.

“It is obvious that Mr Kumar does not read any of the things that go to him…. We are one of the few associations that submit work programmes and annual reports to the Ministry. It’s true that we do not have audited reports but like most sporting associations we cannot afford to pay for auditing. But everything else we submit,” Parris-Aaron stated.

The association held their Annual General Meeting (AGM) last month where they discussed their financial statement, the Secretary’s Annual Report and proposed strategies and plans for the upcoming months.

The GNA’s other plans for the upcoming months include the launching of their umpires and coaches sub-committee and the hosting a weekend seminar for table officials.

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