After a two-year hiatus Guyana’s national female basketball team will be back in action as they are scheduled to compete in the Gillian Brazier tournament in Antigua.
Michael Burnette, representative of female basketball on the Guyana Amateur Basketball Federation, said that the federation is in the process of calling all players to compete in a local competition before a team is named to contest the tournament.
Burnette acknowledged that the national female team has not been on tour but noted that the basketball federation is working to improve those who are interested in the sport for both genders.
“In recent months we have had a clinic for referees and table officials. We have had Tom Newell and NBA coach to certify coaches and out of the batch of forty-one coaches we had five women coaches.”
The female coaches, he said, speaks to the development of the women’s game.
“Eventually we would see more women becoming certified as coaches, referees table officials and the likes of such.”
“Women particularly are not active basketball players, there are a few teams and in recent years there have been very little competitions for these teams.”
However, a number of women are still involved in the sport and they respond well to calls whenever there are tournaments, Burnette said.
For there to be real development there needs to be an introduction of the sport at the school level so “that would serve as the incubator for the development of the sport.”
The federation, he said, would be working through the Education Ministry to ensure that the sport becomes part of the school curriculum.
Burnette said there are many reasons why club tournaments are not being held at the level they were before. But he could not say how many women are involved in the sport, although New Amsterdam has a very active women’s team. Linden and Kwakwani, he said, have excellent developmental programmes. “So we have very active cells throughout Guyana, more on the coast except for Linden and Kwakwani. But at New Amsterdam, East Coast, West Coast and Georgetown and the East Bank we have pockets of basketball being played by women.”
He said, however, that one of the major problems in Guyana is that women’s sports are oftentimes overlooked in favour of the men who get most of the attention.
“I am not the best advocate because I am not a woman, but I recognize that we don’t give the same resources to women as we do to men in sports generally in Guyana.”
That, he said, has to be changed as there has to be some level of gender equality. “That is from the policy level, policy being the government recognizing that their support in sport should engender both men and women equally.”
Women, he said, should not be treated as second class citizens, but that is not something that will change overnight.
“We have to change a lot of attitudes, we have to change the women’s attitude because they should not accept being second in any facet of life.”
According to him the federation has developed a five- year programme titled: ‘Life of the Federation” to address several issues, getting a specific number of women involved in the sport at different levels, education, external input – competitions locally or internationally and the level of coaching.
Burnette, an attorney by profession, said education is a major component of the five-year programme.
“We are hoping that basketball gets to the level where we could bring in an educational component, meaning that we are getting scholarships for the athletes that we are pushing for academic development.”
It is important for players to have something to fall back on when their basketball careers are over. “Basketball should really be a stepping stone to greater things,” he emphasized.
He admitted that it is hard work, but said he has the confidence that the federation would be able to achieve its goals, based on the work that it has been doing.