Two weeks ago a young footballer was shot and killed in Jamaica. Not long before that, the United States of America had a rejuvenation of its #BlackLivesMatter campaign following the death of George Floyd, who died after a policeman, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes, camera rolling and all.

It has been heartening for me to see black people from all over the world standing, marching, kneeling, lying face down, repeating Floyd’s last words ‘I can’t breathe’ together to say enough is enough.

The reach of the Black Lives Matter movement has been incredible since Floyd’s death, reaching all over Europe, Canada, the Caribbean.

But I am now hoping that there is another type of spill-over effect.

Already, there is very little talk about the young man, Shemar Nairne, who was one of eight people murdered on a random Wednesday in Jamaica.

Nairne played football for a living and he isn’t the first sportsman to be impacted by violence. Sports can no longer stand on the sidelines (the irony is obvious here), while the ills of society go without highlight.

For a long time, sports has sought to stay out of the fray for fear that it will be used for political gain and lose its purity, its independence.

But in Jamaica, just as has been the case in other countries, sport isn’t immune to the problems of the society it grows from.

I asked the question, what will be sport’s response to the murder of Nairne and by extension the wanton violence that pervades an increasing number of spaces on the island of Jamaica?

The responses were the very generic indignation that something like this could happen and the condolences to the family. It was not a George Floyd moment.

Sports, like music, are great at bringing people together in Jamaica.

I can remember watching Shell Cup football and being able to run through the spaces between the seats as Jamaica beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 to lift the crown.

The peanut vendor never had to chance his arm when selling his product to me and hope that I was decent enough to pass the money person-to-person across rows of fans to get him his due. He came to my feet to sell me the salted delights and was in no danger of blocking anyone’s view.

But then I can also remember that less than a decade later, I could not move more than a few inches either side of me when the Reggae Boyz were making their historic trek towards a first World Cup berth and the peanut vendor could not hear my screams for his attention. But Bunny didn’t mind. He was very much in the black with the number of orders he was getting. And violent crimes were down.

I say all that to say, Sports and music,  have a major part to play in getting the perpetrators of violence in Jamaica to stop.

Just as the Black Lives Matter campaign has gained worldwide traction and I witnessed as people like dancehall icon Bounty Killer waved placards in front of the US Embassy calling for an end to injustice for all black people, I want a concerted response from sports stars in Jamaica.

Football clubs, cricket clubs, track clubs must lead the way in bringing about an understanding of the importance of life.

I am fully aware of the fact that #GhettoLivesMatter is about putting an end to police excesses, but I believe the slogan can mean something bigger.

For some reason, and by ‘some’ I mean I know all the reasons but will not get into it, it is largely the poor who suffer at the hands of violence and this is a bigger statement than saying the police always brutalize the poor.

That being the case, #GhettoLivesMatter is apt.

Let’s hear the voices of the Jamaica Olympic Association, the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, the Jamaica Football Association, Netball Jamaica, the Inter-Schools Sports Association, the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the sports stars who fall under all these umbrellas.

Justice for Shemar Nairne. #GhettoLivesMatter      

“Avoidance has never been a great tactic in solving any problem. It only makes matters worse.”— Says who?

Though a happy school life depended on it, I avoided netball. Playing netball was a requirement for PE at my single-sex high school. If I wanted to progress with good grades, I needed to excel at it. But, I would purposely leave my gears at home— the oldest trick in the book. I’d tell my coach that, “it was better than being absent.” She was nice about it and didn’t mind me watching from the sidelines.

While I watched, I didn't want to look too comfortable. I’d mimic the girls on the court. Pivoting was the worst. It was a burden to remember what foot did what. On a normal day, the only responsibility my feet had was to walk- lifting and setting down each foot in turn. I found it difficult to remember that I couldn't move the landing foot; other than to pivot on the spot. Once I lifted the landing foot, it couldn't touch the ground again until I released the ball. It was all too much! The mistakes stopped me from participating. Still, I managed to get full marks in netball.

As the end of the semester approached, I noticed something. My coach for netball started avoiding us.

When it was time for PE, there wasn’t anyone to hurry us up. Usually, we’d waste time in the locker room, doing absolutely nothing. Girls would spitefully change into their gears slowly and even pretended to look for missing gears. We would tell our coach that someone was missing their shirt (or any other item) and that we were helping her to find it. She thought the idea was rubbish and requested the owner to look for it. However, we wasted more time debating about why all of us needed to look for it together; obviously to find it quicker.

We no longer heard her chafing. For most classes, our coach wore a top paired with polyester sweatpants. The pants were the loudest thing ever. Especially because our coach had thick thighs that would rub against each other, the fabric eliciting a distinct sound. We could always hear her walking towards the locker room to hurry us up.

Now, P.E was basically conducted by us. Instead of being responsible and making our coach proud, we slowly neglected the session. We went about our business, roaming the campus; idling. It was risky though. If we got caught, the head of school would suspect something was wrong. She would figure that we weren’t in a class because our teacher was absent. Then, she'd appoint someone to oversee us. We didn’t want that. So we stayed on the court as much as possible having discussions about boys.

When she did show up, she'd come late.

One evening, while the girls and I were having a heated discussion about which teachers were pushovers, we heard that distinct chafing sound made when polyester pants rubbed. “Do you guys hear that?” One girl asked. “It can’t be!” said another. “There’s only like five minutes remaining for the class.” Another girl opined.

Lo and behold, it was our coach. “Hello girls, how are you?” “I have a lot of explaining to do.” She explained why we hadn’t seen her in some time. Outside of coaching us, she had other obligations for netball. According to her, the tasks were time consuming.

Almost interrupting her, one girl brought up more important matters. Since it was nearing the end of the semester, we wondered about our grades. We haven’t been learning anything and our confidence level to do a test for netball was low. About two months later, my report card showed that I passed netball.

I’m not sure what happened but I try not to question it. Netball was good to me even though I avoided it. Avoidance works – doesn’t it?

Hey guys! Let’s talk about sports gear. Particularly the adorable ones netballers wear.

Many years ago, I wanted to give netball a chance. It already had a lot going for itself.

Yes, it is a space mostly for women (that’s nice and all) but... the outfits!

The gears were so cute. I admired the over shoulder bibs, pleated mini skirts and sleeveless V neck tops. Actually, they looked too good to be sports gears. So I wondered how effective they really were.

Personally, I’d find it hard to concentrate looking as cute as I do. Whether you like it or not, attractiveness takes up a big part of a woman’s life. We try to look our best most of the time. Inside, outside and online. Especially if you're representing a company or team. There’s an expectation that you are required to meet. They expect you to look a certain way since branding is everything.

People associate your look with how successful you are and that impacts how you are treated. With that said, I’ll be more concerned about parading my gears instead of worrying about an actual match.

Come to think of it, I’d be self-conscious too. Well, because people are watching.

At matches, there's a camera following your every move from different angles and spectators are observing you for long periods. When you’re under a magnifying glass, It’s hard not to think about looks. It’s even possible to become a little insecure when you keep thinking about how you match up to your teammates in the same gears.

If I were a netball player, I’d be an insecure one. Girls with large butts in mini skirts!

How could I ever compete with that? I’d spend a lot of time questioning my body type and build. Like, why haven’t I grown into my long legs yet!!?

I see myself having to create a support group with my teammates who are also less voluptuous.

That way, we’ll have each other for upliftment. The support group will come in handy when I get sad about how the uniform fits me compared to my curvy teammates.

It doesn’t help that women are compared to each other often. Women even put other women under scrutiny.

You may think this is an old way of thinking because everyone seems to be all about individuality. Social media has an abundance of posts acknowledging the importance of representation and uniqueness.

Still, there are ‘who wore it better’ posts and others that make people feel inferior.

Who remembers Gabby Douglas? The American gymnast who became the first woman of colour to win the individual all-around event at the 2012 summer Olympics.

Despite her accomplishments, she was humiliated on social media because people compared her hair to the hair of her teammates’.

Can you imagine the unwanted attention I’d get in a uniform like that? A mini skirt and sleeveless tank will bring some people overwhelming excitement.

Excited fans and colleagues may make frequent advances because they see what they like. There’s nothing more annoying than feeling uncomfortable in a space you have to be in regularly. And don’t get me started with catcalling.

For some of you, it makes you feel good; lifts your spirit. For others, even though we expect people to get excited about the cute uniforms, we hate when people don’t know when to stop. Then, if we defend ourselves or speak up, chances are we’ll get disrespected.

With attention on my gears, my actual skills will be overlooked. Some people will get so focused on the uniforms that the game will become vain. It wouldn’t be about the heart of the players or the love for the game. Instead, it will be about the flirty movement of the miniskirts and the tightness of the sleeveless jerseys.

Yesterday I was watching a netball match. Specifically the 2018 Fast5 Netball World Series.  It was between Jamaica and New Zealand. I wanted to see how the gears are currently. I realized they didn’t have on over-the-shoulder bibs. Instead, the bibs were attached to their tops with what looked like velcro. During the match, a bib kept falling off. Players had to assist in sticking the bib back on. That’s not all. Jamaican players were seen dragging down their skirts to an appropriate length. I wondered if it was a distraction for them. It would’ve been for me.

It’s no secret, athletes perform better with effective gears. In 2006, the NBA ditched their leather ball for a new one. The new ball had microfiber material which gave players a better grip. In other sports, effective gears allowed athletes to cut through air easier, glide through water quicker and run without slipping. Hence sports gears can influence performance.

But netball doesn’t seem to have caught up just yet.

Please share your thoughts about netball gears on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use the hashtag IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Netball players in the Suncorp Super Netball in Australia have agreed to 70 per cent pay cut in light of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe and that has prevented the league from getting started this season.

Samantha Wallace, the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball Finals MVP, said she is doing well despite missing her family back home as she waits out the postponement of the league because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The virus has infected close to half a million people in 198 countries globally and killed more than 22,000. There are about 3000 cases in Australia, which prompted the Super Netball League Commission (SNLC) to call a halt for the season for at least the next couple of months.

“Given the rapidly-evolving landscape, the Commission has determined that the start of the season will be deferred and will not commence prior to 30 June,” a statement from the commission said on Monday.

Wallace, the shooter for the New South Wales Swifts, is among several players from Trinidad and Tobago who are in Australia and who are unlikely to be able to travel home since the country has closed its borders in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

However, Wallace said she is doing okay.

“I'm coping extremely well, to be honest. I'm safe, my health is great,” she told Sportsmax.tv.

“It's hard not being with my family and loved ones in this time but everyone back home is healthy and safe.”

However, she concedes that the league on hiatus is proving to be a bit of a challenge.

“It’s weird waking up in the morning and not have training to attend,” she said.

“Looking at the safer side, our health and well-being are way more important than a netball league at the moment. We, the athletes, have to find a way to keep fit in our backyards or wherever as possible.”

She offered words of encouragement in what will be challenging times.

“I see this as an opportunity to spend great quality time with your kids, family. Although I know it's a tough time here because some people are jobless and don't know when they will have a job again, in all I'm just grateful for life.”

When Australia closed its borders to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, Jhaniele Fowler was among the thousands who were unable to leave the Land Down Under.

Tricia Robinson is the new president of Netball Jamaica after she was elevated unopposed during an Annual General Meeting at the Jamaica Olympic Association headquarters on Saturday.

Robinson is replacing Dr Paula Daley-Morris, who spent the last four years in office, is the outgoing president and should have been replaced from last December but the organization was unable to find a quorum and was also delayed by the absence of a financial statement.

Robinson comes into an organization with many problems, as Dr Daley-Morris’ tenure was frought with fighting among administrators.

At the AGM on Saturday, senior team coach Sasher-Gaye Henry was the most vocal of the high-profile members in pointing out to the new boss that there was much work to do.

According to Henry, it is disappointing to see how ‘rundown’ the sport had become in Jamaica.

Robinson will lead a board that includes Simone Forbes, Karlene Waugh, Jennifer Headlam, Keyan Murdock, Wayne Shaw, Leonie Phinn, Denise Wisdom, and Janet Johnson-Haughton.

Sloppy second-half play from Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls resulted in them losing to New Zealand in the final of the 2020 Vitality Nations Cup at the Copper Box Arena in England on Sunday.

Jamaican netball star Romelda Aiken is now an Australian citizen.

Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls booked a spot in the final of the Vitality Netball Nations Cup final following a 70-66 win over England Roses at the Copper Box Arena on Saturday.

In another strong performance, the Jamaicans led wire to wire before eventually outpacing the slow-starting Roses who staged a furious fourth-quarter rally.  The win will see the Sunshine Girls taking on New Zealand for the title on Sunday.

The Jamaicans started quickly, driving the ball up court with quick passes, the moves expertly finished off by a dominant Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.  Defensively, they managed to force the Roses into careless errors, approaching the first break with a 19-15 lead.

In an attempt to shot down Fowler-Reid in the second quarter, England double-teamed the 6ft 6in phenom with defenders Stacey Francis and Kate Shimmin.  The Caribbean team, however, quickly switched the passes to goal attack Shanice Beckford, who finished just as effectively.  At halftime, the Jamaicans held a 39-31 lead.

The Sunshine Girls looked to press their advantage soon after the resumption and held an 11-goal lead with 9 minutes of the third remaining and ended the period up 57-44 and seemingly set for a comfortable win.

A furious fourth-quarter rally from the home team, however, made things seem far less academic as they clawed their way back to within a four-goal deficit.  The Jamaicans, however, held on to cross the finish line.

 

England Roses coach Jess Thirlby insists the team is clear on the approach to take in a crucial encounter against Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls, as the sides battle for a spot in the Vitality Netball Nations Cup final on Saturday.

The Jamaicans started the competition in spectacular fashion with a big win over South Africa but experienced a set-back after a loss to the Silver Ferns.  The Roses also defeated SPAR Proteas but were also defeated by New Zealand.  The teams will now meet for a spot in the first-versus-second play-off match.

Thirlby expects to put the Jamaicans under pressure from the opening whistle in the winner take all showdown.

"We know what we need to do, we know we’re going to have to win the ball and pressure it early,” the coach told Sky Sports.

"It's going to be a tough one against Jamaica but I'm really looking forward to the fact that we have put ourselves in that position [winner-takes-all] on Saturday," she added.

"Coming into the tournament I said that, ideally, we want to get into these finals, and we have every opportunity to do so now.  It's going to be tough with that height in the back, but South Africa pushed them the other day. Everyone was a bit critical of us against New Zealand, but you saw the margin between the Silver Ferns and Jamaica (26 goals) so I think it's game on.”

 

 

 

New Zealand drubbed Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls 71-45 in their round two match-up in the Vitality Nations Cup Netball Tournament in Birmingham, England on Wednesday.

Sunshine Girl vice-captain Nicole Dixon showered praise on head coach Connie Francis following Sunday’s 59-54 win over South Africa in their opening match of the 2020 Vitality Nations Cup.

Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls will end 2019 as the number-four ranked netball in the world.

After winning back-to-back Suncorp Super Netball League Player of the Year titles, Jamaica’s Jhanielle Fowler says she plans to improve even more as she wants to be remembered as the greatest shooter ever by the time she retires from the sport.

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