We must note that our decline at the Under-16 level comes on the heels of declining performances by the senior team in regional competition. It was a major struggle to defeat St Lucia in the finals of the ECCB OECS Tournament held here earlier in the year.
There was a time when St Vincent and the Grenadines was considered one of the netball powerhouses in the Caribbean. We were accustomed to beating up on Barbados and others, leaving only Jamaica and at times Trinidad and Tobago to be our major challengers. This all seems like history now.
The foundation of the sport of netball here in St Vincent and the Grenadines is the school. For many years it was common to see great excitement amongst the nation’s Primary and Secondary schools as they battled for netball supremacy.
There was a sense that the authorities worked assiduously to ensure that the nation’s only all-female sport provided our girls and young ladies with an opportunity to showcase their sporting abilities.
Over the past several years it does appear that the system has fallen down in many respects. The excitement once generated seems to have faded.
No longer do we even hear reports of the games as having generated the kind of enthusiasm to which we had grown accustomed in the past.
While we are aware that following the conclusion of the netball competition for the secondary schools the authorities here select a team to commence training for the annual Windward Islands Secondary Schools’ Sports, it does appear that even this team is no longer at the level of those in the past.
The selected team is entered in the national competition for the purpose of facilitating their playing together and being knit into a sound grouping for the regional tournament.
The time has obviously come for a review of the approach to netball being adopted by the primary and secondary schools system, the nursery of the sport in the country.
This columnist has repeatedly observed that over the past few years we have seen a decline in the popularity of the sport of netball in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
It is necessary to observe at the same time that this slide did not begin with the change of administration. It began before that.
The problems have been seen in the decline in interest of people in the Industrial Netball Tournament which has now lost its longstanding sponsorship. At the official opening of the most recent edition of the Industrial Tournament there were no more than five teams involved in the March Past and a mere handful of patrons in the stand.
There has also been significant decline in the number of teams participating in the Cable and Wireless Netball Tournament, the national championships for the sport. There was an all time high achieved in1994 of 52 participating teams.
Attendance at netball games have sunk to perhaps an all time low. The persons in attendance are now more often than not friends and relatives of players rather than mere lovers of the sport as was the norm in the past.
The decline continues unabated even as netball has secured and continues to develop its own home in New Montrose.
There must be reason for the sudden change in direction and it is the local authorities who must do what is necessary to ascertain the required answers.