Members of the national Under-16 netball team returned from Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday last literally licking their wounds. The national team was in Trinidad and Tobago to participate in the Caribbean Netball Association’s, CNA, Under-16 Tournament at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port-of-Spain. St Vincent and the Grenadines finished fifth in the Tournament, which had a total of eight participating countries.
Perhaps the most important sign of our need to revisit what we are doing with the sport is our defeat at the hands of Dominica, a country where facilities are significantly more limited than is the case here.
Another sign is the performance against Barbados when, in the final quarter, the national team was ahead by seven goals. The Bajans closed the gap and earned what for them was a very exciting draw.
Prior to leaving for Trinidad and Tobago the young netballers were brought together to engage in a preparatory exercise that was intended to create a strong unit for the regional engagement.
The selection of the training squad was itself problematic given what appears to be a major fall-off in the quality of the players available for selection. This meant that before the team left for the regional competition the authorities here knew of the difficult task that confronted the players on the court, especially given the level at which Jamaica had taken the game.
Jamaica has won the regional Under-16 Tournament more than any other team. The preparation exercise for the Jamaicans began immediately upon returning from the 2005 edition of the Tournament where the Barbadians came out on top. The commitment of the Jamaicans was that there should not be a repeat this time around. They were out to regain their netballing supremacy at the junior level. They already control the regional senior competition.Here at home the staff preparing the netballers found the going tough. They were aware that the skill level of the players left much to be desired and that they were also very short on the fitness level required.The training was compounded by the fact that the players lived far and wide and hence it was necessary to avoid them getting home too late following practice sessions.
Attempts were nonetheless made to prepare the team as was possible given the constraints that were everywhere evident.
During the Tournament in Trinidad and Tobago, the Vincentian team got off to a good start with a relatively easy victory over Grenada. The Vincentians then surprisingly lost to Dominica by three goals. The game against Trinidad saw the team play good enough to come within nine goals of the girls from the twin-island Republic.
The game against Jamaica was a blow-out. The Vincentian team simply never really proved any match for their rivals at any stage in the encounter.
Generally the team showed signs of improvement during the Tournament but not enough to compensate for the problems which were recognized here at home prior to journeying to Trinidad and Tobago.
The fifth placed finish in the regional Tournament reflects the extent to which we should begin to get really worried about the state of the game in the country. When we have reached a stage where Dominica defeats us in an encounter and ends the competition ahead of us in the rankings then we do need to get very worried.