CRIPPLING weaknesses in the standard of coaching at the high school level is a major concern for Jamaica's netball, according to the local body's high performance director Maureen Hall.
Hall, a former national coach of the Sunshine Girls, speaking at a recent Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange forum, said she is not satisfied with the quality of coaching in the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) netball age-group competitions.
While outlining her dissatisfaction, Hall stated that the high-calibre coaching seen in high school track and field is an example that has to be emulated in netball.
"We have to look at what happens with our coaches in track and field and try to do the same. Both traditional and non-traditional high schools tend to do well and that is because coaches with high levels of competence are coaching young athletes at the various schools. Netball has to take a look.
"Girls can spend five to six years in high school and don't learn the basics. Some of them have good athletic abilities and they can jump and whatever, but don't have skills in terms of catching the ball, landing properly and to pivot and so on," she said.
Hall, who also had an illustrious playing career for the Jamaica senior team, said she recognises the challenges that some learning institutions have in preparing teams for the ISSA-run leagues, but urged schools to find ways to circumvent those obstacles.
"I've heard that it is sometimes difficult for coaches because school starts in September and they don't have a lot of time to prepare for the start of the league late in that month. But schools that are more organised have players coming in the summer to train and also entering teams and players in the JNA (Jamaica Netball Association) leagues and generally have more players playing club netball," Hall explained.
During her delivery, Hall, in an attempt to emphasise the need for players to learn basic techniques, also declared that youngsters should not only be coached, but ought to be "taught netball skills".
Head coach of the senior team Oberon Pitterson-Nattie, currently preparing the youthful Jamaica team for April's home Test series clash against number three-ranked England, chimed in that some schools may have misdirected priorities.
"At the high school level sometimes it seems to be about winning, rather than them (young players) being taught the fundamentals. So coaches get tall people to play and those tall people will get rebounds, but that's it... it is important we get it (the coaching) right from there (in the high schools)," she pleaded.
The Jamaicans are currently rated fourth best in the world.
JNA President Marva Bernard insisted that the association is working feverishly to improve technical aspects of the country's netball. She noted the JNA's partnership with ISSA as an avenue for guaranteeing more competent coaches in high schools.
"Coaching and umpiring... those are technical parts of the game that often get overlooked, but not by us. We have a partnership with UTech (University of Technology) to upscale our coaches.
"We have agreed with ISSA that when we have our schedule of (coaching) courses up and running that there will be a cut-off (for having uncertified netball coaches in schools). We both agree that coaches need to be certified to coach in high school, and that's one major way that we can develop netball," Bernard said.
Hall, however, told the Monday Exchange forum that ISSA should not procrastinate and should instead compel schools to assign only qualified coaches to lead their respective netball programmes.
"ISSA don't have to wait on the JNA. ISSA can say in order for you to participate in any ISSA competition the coach must be qualified. There are people from outside who are not qualified and they are coaching in the schools. There are no entry requirements... there are no barriers to entry and we are suffering as a result," the JNA high performance head lamented.