BNA president Kimale Evans wants more support for netball
Kimale Evans, the president of the Bermuda Netball Association, is calling for greater support for the sport and has welcomed news of the Government's plans to increase funding for elite athletes in an effort to improve the country's performance in international sporting competition.
Competitive netball will return to the island today, with matches in all four leagues — Under-11, Under-14, Under-17 and Senior League — set to be played at Bernard Park, starting at 1pm.
The local netball executive described the sport's comeback as a crucial factor in its development in Bermuda and is hoping that this, coupled with recent successes at the international level, will encourage increased financial backing from public and private-sector interests.
“Basically, netball is a sport that has been looked at for many years as just being a recreational sport. It's the only all-female sport on the island,” Evans said. “For many years we've been really pushing for our place on the totem pole of being recognised and we hope that some of the forward movements that we have been been making will become acknowledged because a lot of work is being done.”
“We have definitely had success in a lot of the tournaments we have gone to, particularly in the area of our under-16 and under-21 age groups, and our senior women's team played a tri-series about three or four years ago against Canada and United States and definitely played well.
“So we have been successful and I think that we will be even more successful if we can secure more funding to basically have more opportunities to play at that international level.”
The BNA receives $20,000 in government funding on a yearly basis, well short of the $60,000 to $100,000 that Evans believes is needed to meet the organisation's objectives.
She said: “When it comes to us going on tour and things of that nature, we have been very limited in the amount of tours we have been able to undertake because we have to determine which tour is more feasible for us at the time. So we are unable to get out there and participate in as many international tournaments as we would like to because, you know, for years we haven't really had the funding for it. It is not for lack of trying and we will continue to try.”
Evans notes that the BNA has relied heavily on players’ registration fees and fundraising efforts over the years, but these have both been heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting suspension of the sport owing to the health crisis.
Evans is hoping that netball will not be ignored when the promised injection of funds for elite sports is being fulfilled.
During the November 5 Throne Speech, the Government announced that it will invest more funds in the island's athletes in light of triathlete Flora Duffy's gold medal-winning performance at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“We are very appreciative for all that the Government gives us and we try our best to utilise it in the best way that we can and not let that hinder us from potentially giving exposure to our players at a more elite level,” Evans said. “I just think that, especially based on the level of success that we have had more recently in the past couple of years, now is definitely the time to invest in the sport because we're going places.
“We would hope that we would meet that criteria first and foremost, to be considered as an elite sport. One other thing is that female sport in particular for a while, I mean, you know, triathlon is an individual sport and we definitely applaud Flora and all her success, but it's been known that a lot of the predominantly male sports have been highly funded.”
Meanwhile, Evans says that the players are excited and eager to get competition started this weekend.
There are approximately 250 competitive netballers in the country.