The St Lucia Netball Association is gearing up for a busy and productive season. The ladies are currently undergoing rigorous training programmes in communities throughout the island in preparation for the gruelling schedule ahead. Rufina Paul, president of the association, broke down the months ahead for the athletes.
“The training programme ongoing now is a national squad; under-16’s, under-23’s and senior. The under-16’s were supposed to have been playing in St Lucia with the Caribbean Under-16 Netball Championships, which was scheduled for April 3-13 in St Lucia. But because of the trough system we had to inform the Caribbean Netball Association that we were not able to host because our limited resources would have to be diverted to other things. So Antigua has taken on board the challenge of hosting at the same time. So what has happened is that instead of starting on the third, we start on the fourth with arrivals.”
St Lucia will be hosting a tournament sponsored by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, where the under-23 squad will compete from June 27th to July 3rd. Paul is appreciative of the company’s continued support which dates back to 1992.
“We really want to applaud the ECCB for continuing that tradition. Be that as it may, the price of accommodation and meals are going up but we’re trying to see how best we can manoeuver in terms of reasonable rates. Hopefully we’ll have about nine countries coming to St Lucia if all the OECS countries come.”
The coup de grâce will be the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland from July 23 rd to August 3rd. Paul is intent on having the team put on a good showing at the international event and as such has agreed to get them there ahead of time for some pre-tourney friendly competition.
“England has already sent us an offer to do some practice matches when we get to Glasgow about the 19th and 20th so we hopefully will try to get there before the 19th so that we can engage them and anyone else who is available in some practice matches which would be very good for our girls.”
The association is well aware that the teams success will rest on their fitness level and their ability to hang with top tier talent. The girls have been receiving strength and conditioning training with PE Specialist at the Ministry of Sports, Dane Magloire, who is trying to change their attitudes as well.
“One of our weaknesses is that the girls are unfit. So I was asked by my PS to get involved in trying and get the team some basic fitness levels before the coach comes in March from Jamaica.So the plan is to develop fitness across. Right now we have girls training here, a group of girls in Vieux-Fort, and we’re going to have some in Soufriere training. I have people monitoring them because I gave them a workout to follow. So everybody is doing pretty much the same thing to prepare the girls.”
They have been training since December in cardiovascular, endurance, and strength. Magloire recognizes the changes, no matter how miniscule.
“We started at zero. Right now we at one so that’s improvement. They’ve been in the sport but they haven’t seen it as a lifestyle so now we’re trying to encourage that.”
Paul concurs. “We’ve told the athletes over and over that netball is a lifestyle. It is not when you’re called to competition. I take care of my body as an athlete. When I’m called into training I’m ready. Don’t come into training to get fit. When we do that we are already behind in terms of building the momentum towards becoming an A team.”
The high performance coach Connie Francis comes in on March 1st and from there they will be going into the second phase of training which has a lot to do with the netball skills. Paul is convinced that they will assemble the best possible team.
“It is a technical matter. There is a selection committee that we’ve chosen. They will be given clear guidelines as far as what to look for. They will be looking at the girls and deliberating in terms of who should go forward. When the coach comes as well there will be a mini-rama to look at who is who and see how best we can galvanize a good team which has longevity, depth, which is one that can go into the future.”