Bermuda aim to be quick off mark in Aberdeen
Visiting coach Ilze Gideons has quickly recognised the talent in the Bermuda netball squad, but admits that there are a couple of shortcomings, too.
One is the lack of height in the team who will go up against players in the Netball Europe Open in Scotland next month who will be distinctly taller. South Africa-born Gideons, who now resides in Harlem, New York, would also like to see more funding investing in the sport in order to give the women more international competition.
The Bermuda Netball Association received a £30,000 grant from the Commonwealth Games Federation Developmental Programme 2015-2018, which was facilitated through the Bermuda Olympic Association in an attempt to qualify for next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast of Australia. To qualify for the Games, Bermuda must be ranked among the top 14 countries in the world by July and have played in at least eight international fixtures.
The BNA recently hired Gideons as head coach to help prepare the team for the trip to Aberdeen from May 11-14, when they will play four ranking matches in the Invitational Section against Israel, Gibraltar and Ireland.
Gideons has recently been coming to the island twice a month to work with the team. “I came at the beginning of February and then officially in March, every other week for about five days at a time,” said Gideons, who returns to New York this weekend.
“I think the reality is Bermuda’s exposure to top netball is very minimal, if not at all, but as they play more internationally it will give them a reality check of what’s expected on an international level.
“The speed and agility, they’ve got that, but they are challenged with their height. The girls have potential, for sure, but they’re going to have to work really hard to place.
“I just wish the country could back their national netball team more financially. There’s not a single person on the Bermuda Netball Association who is full-time so everyone has jobs and are doing this with passion. Exposure is crucial at the national level.”
With the grant in place, the BNA acted quickly to find an international tournament to compete in.
“Once we received the grant from the BOA, we took to the internet combing the International Netball Federation site amongst others to find a tournament where we could play ranked matches and get more bang for our buck,” said Kimale Evans, the BNA president. “In doing that we came across this tournament that fit into the parameters set out in the guidelines of the grant. The Netball Europe Championships provides a performance environment and opportunity for participating members, thus raising the profile of the game and supporting members in developing netball at all levels and for all age groups.
“The championships take place in venues across Europe on a rotational basis bringing together their larger member countries along with developing netball nations. This is our first time applying and being given permission to take part in this tournament.”
Dominique Richardson is looking forward to lead the team as captain in the key position of centre. “In mid-court she holds that together and we’ve got some strong shooters, too, but have got to move around a little bit,” the coach said. “There’s some potential there, it’s still a young squad.”
Richardson has dedicated her time to netball after recently quitting football because of knee injuries. “It’s an honour to be named as captain, growing up as a young netballer it was the highest regard as far as playing on the national team,” Richardson said. “I take it with pride and humility, the coaches have a vision for me and I just hope I can execute. The coaches have picked a strong 12 and the only thing we can do now is work hard, continue to listen and execute the basics. She’s brought some new concepts to us, but what I really like is she is tough on us, she calls us out and holds us to a high standard.
“It has already improved our game and I’m grateful the BNA reached out and we have her here. It’s [injuries] are always going to be a struggle but I’ve never had an injury from netball. It could be a mental thing as well. I’m a footballer at heart but netball was the first sport I ever played.”
One player who will miss the trip is goal shooter Ebonie Burgess who will be getting married to Darius Cox, the Robin Hood football captain, early next month. She was in the team that provided the opposition in the practice match at Somersfield.
“She is by far one of the best goal attacks on the Island, but she fell in love, met her Mr Forever and will be on her honeymoon during this tour,” Richardson said. “The timing was off but in future tours she’ll definitely be in the team.”
Gideons has an impressive resume as a player, having represented the senior provincial team from age 18 and captained them. She has worked with top international players and coaches as a coach.
“I started real young at a professional level, I guess, so was exposed to a lot because of the mentors in my life,” said Gideons who workes as a youth pastor and life coach in New York. “I’m a full time missionary [in New York], working with inner-city kids and I am also a musician.”
Gideons worked with Netball America and the US team for the past six years. “Actually, how I got this [Bermuda] gig was I felt I needed to take a break and within an hour of calling to say I’m going to take some time off, Bermuda called me,” she said.