Sport

Jamaica's Bernard lays out vision for netball in the Americas

BY SANJAY MYERS
Senior staff reporter
myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

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LIVERPOOL, England — Jamaica's Marva Bernard, president of Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA), says a major goal is to bring the sport to the doorsteps of more countries in the region.

Lobbying to have a place at the 2022 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Panama, and creating a snowball effect by attracting new members are two avenues being explored.

“We want to get netball into the 2022 CAC Games. We're almost there — our next move is to lobby in person at their general assembly in October.

“We want to grow the number of members in the region. We are going to target the Spanish-speaking countries, we want to get back members like Bahamas, and we're happy that Haiti is a new member,” Bernard told the Jamaica Observer.

“Netball is played in multi-purpose games in Africa and in Asia, [but] it's not played in the Caribbean. We want to give ourselves a fighting chance of doing this new thing, so we are working very hard,” she explained.

Countries in the Americas have not been able to crack the dominance that top-ranked Australia, New Zealand and — to a lesser extent — England have had in netball. Over the past two decades only Jamaica have had a podium finish, winning bronze in 2003 and 2007.

Bernard, elected AFNA president in August last year for a four-year term, said development at the grass roots, increasing funding, and development of coaches and umpires are key components.

“Our board wants to build on what we've inherited. We want to improve it, just fix what needs to be fixed — because everything is not broken.

“We are having the high school championship in St Maartens in August. We have about eight or nine schools interested. We will be having fund-raisers and also, we'll have coaching and umpiring courses,” the former Netball Jamaica president outlined.

Amending the constitution to better serve the members is another item on the agenda.

“We've been working on governance, and one of the first things I wanted to do — which was a low-hanging fruit — was to get the constitution up to date. So I established a governance committee and a thorough review was done of the constitution, and changes were proposed and are being considered. Governance is important and if you put that structure in order then it will allow you to function more efficiently, and the members will be able to hold us accountable.”

Bernard said there has been progress since she took office.

“It's been almost a year but when we look at the results we are very satisfied as a board, and I hope our region is very satisfied with the progress since we've taken over. It wasn't going to be easy but we are up to the task,” she told the Observer.

The Jamaica Sunshine Girls are the world's top-ranked team from the region at number two. They are followed by the number 10-ranked Trinidad and Tobago Calypso Girls, and the 11th-ranked Barbados Gems.

Bernard is in Liverpool following the fortunes of all three teams at the ongoing Netball World Cup.

“The teams in the Caribbean are very talented and I have three teams currently at the World Cup. My dream is that we have more countries in the top 10 whilst I'm still president. I'm going to do everything in my power to ensure that more opportunities are created for more countries to come to the top.”

She said that the much-fancied Jamaicans have the quality to go all the way, while adding that lower-ranked T&T and Barbados should target a finish that pushes them up the International Netball Federation rankings.

“They [the Sunshine Girls] can do it. They need to have self-belief, they need to stay focused; they need to block out all the distractions and play hard for themselves, their families, and for their country.

“I want them [T&T and Barbados] to improve their placing and be fearful of no one, because on a given day the ball is round. The countries have worked hard to bring them here and to prepare them…the sky is the limit,” the AFNA boss concluded.


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