On Target
December 6, 2013
Primary Schools’ Netball Festival – a pivotal step

The recent Primary Schools’ Netball Festival must be praised, for at last, some persons, somewhere, woke up and acknowledged that the sport needed such a local innovation at this juncture.{{more}}

Playing on a grassed surface is not entirely new to St Vincent and the Grenadines, as the records show that the Victoria Park, as well as other grassed areas, such as that plot behind the Court House building in Kingstown, were the venues for netball competitions of yesteryear.

But, its resurgence at this stage, when netball is in need of a lift in participation, an injection of interest, especially among the primary school students, must be viewed as a step in the right direction.

But most of all, the lowering of the poles, coupled with the non- threatening grassed fields, helped to encourage participation among some of the primary schools.

The initiative proved to be a far cry from previous years, when some schools failed to register a single goal as the height of the poles was out of the reach of those who had not yet attained a certain level of physical maturation.

It must also be conceded that the state of some of the hard courts across St Vincent and the Grenadines turn off the not so strong willed students from venturing out on them.

But, the festival was not all glowing, as many of the schools did not enter for some reason or the other.

This, should not, in any way, deter the organizers from going at it next year, with the hope that others will join. The onus now is on all stakeholders who wish to fashion a path in making St Vincent and the Grenadines netball a force to be reckoned with, first up in the region, before the other steps are made.

Anything to give netball that kick must be encouraged, as St Vincent and the Grenadines is almost off the world radar, as at present, this country does not possess an IFNA ranking.

This is because of the limited participation in the various tournaments, namely the AFNA qualifiers and the protracted absence of the senior Caribbean Netball Association tournament.

Neither does St Vincent and the Grenadines get involved in friendly internationals to get the annual quota of eight matches to be eligible for ranking points.

Therefore, the executive of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Netball Association has to be the lead player and chart the new course for netball.

The sport must again take root in the primary schools, not simply in terms of the annual festival, which should in the shortest possible time become a full fledged competition.

In making this a reality, efforts should be made to have the most knowledgeable persons with that technical savvy to go into the schools and teach the rudiments of the sport.

And, this could be done even at the level of the pre-schoolers, similar to what occurs in tennis with the Grassroot Tennis Club and the X-Cel Tennis Academy.

At the intermediate level, there has to be a serious drive to get the potentially good players who emerge from the annual secondary schools’ competition taken to that stage beyond what is done at their various schools.

In this way, the identified talents can be honed and a larger talent pool formed.

At the other end of the ladder, the executive of the SVGNA has to work closer with the various area committees, to have their competitions streamlined, as they, in some way, impact on the overall national set-up.

The time is now more than ever to have the national club tournament restructured as what happens, especially among the lower divisions, reflects merely recreation rather than serious development.

At the top tier of the national club tournament, the best players need to compete against one another more often than the twice, which is most often the case.

It is better to have the first division of the national club tournament contested for two rounds instead of the one that currently obtains, as there is a distinct divide in the talents which surface at the top.

St Vincent and the Grenadines may never reach the heights on the regional scene as was experienced decades ago, but at least let netball be once more a meaningful sport, not just a sporting/recreational pastime.