Sunshine Girls Head Coach Connie Francis is appealing for increased financial support as she believes more resources will be required to boost her team’s chances of securing a podium finish at next year’s Commonwealth Games.
Francis’s plea came in the wake of her team’s 1-2 series loss to rivals England in the recently concluded Vitality Roses Reunited three-match series in the United Kingdom.
The number four-ranked Sunshine Girls lost the first encounter 45-55 at Copper Box Arena in London and the second 47-66 at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena, which condemned them to their first series defeat against their number three-ranked rivals since 2013.
However, the Sunshine Girls showed their true worth in the final encounter also in Nottingham, registering a 63-53 win to avoid being swept in the series which was part of their preparation for Commonwealth Games.
It is this show of grit and determination, coupled with their quality across the court that Francis says she is accustomed to from her team.
In the same breath, however, she admitted that they were outplayed in the first two contests by a well-oiled Roses unit, as she once again brought to the fore the gap in wherewithal between the Sunshine Girls and the front-runners.
New Zealand and Australia have lifted the past 10 world titles, with the latter claiming seven of those. England have never won the World Cup but are reigning Commonwealth Games champions.
“The overall series was a welcoming one and I wish we could have a few more before the Commonwealth Games. This series showed that we are behind when it comes to match preparation for the girls when compared with the top three teams (Australia, New Zealand and England) as well as in the resources and the support system behind those teams.
“The Roses had seven years of planning where they got all hands on deck to help develop their netball. So what we went up against, apart from the team, was a great support staff of doctors, video personnel, masseuse, two coaches for each area of the court and trainers and this started seven years ago, so you can see things coming together for them,” Francis told the Jamaica Observer.
“The last game showed the character of our girls as they continue to fight with the little we have to try to beat the top teams ahead of us and the vision remains the same.
“But we have to make some changes in terms of how we operate and we cannot do it without the necessary financial support. I know Netball Jamaica wants to do better but they need the support,” she added.
According to Francis, her team is without a stable assistant coach, fitness and conditioning trainer and video analyst, as the persons currently occupying these positions are volunteers who may not be readily available when needed.
To compound the problem, the coach says basic resources such as nutrition, vitamins and ankle tapes are also woefully lacking.
“The sad part is that the girls keep committing to our programme and I think our programme continues to short change them because we don’t have the resources,” the coach, who returned to the helm on 2019, bemoaned.
“I think its time we find some resources or somebody else can come on board to support the programme to help with its development, because all the positions except mine are filled by volunteers and we have to big them up because they commit to and continue to give their best to the girls,” Francis noted.
She continued: “We have seven months before Commonwealth Games, so hopefully we can get some more sponsorship on board to help Netball Jamaica where they can when it comes to nutrition, vitamins, tapes for ankles and so on because these things are so important.
“Again, we also need to get the proper staff behind them so that we can be a real true contender for a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games because we have the players. But every time we go out we are the least prepared when it comes to resources and then expectations are so high for these girls when it comes to delivering the goods.”
While they wait for a sponsor or two to support their cause, Francis pointed out that they will continue to put in the work with the intention of bettering their 2002, 2014 and 2018 bronze medal performances when they return to England for the Commonwealth Games.
“For now, it’s about going back into practice, hopefully I can get an assistant coach there on spot with me to increase the workload to ensure that all the players play their role because our defensive midcourt and attacking midcourt has to improve,” said Francis.
“But I am happy that we got the chance to play England and hopefully before we go to Comms we will get some more games under our belts, but definitely we have to do things differently to prepare going forward because we know that we are more than capable of putting on a good show,” she ended.