Netball

'It's just a game,' say besties Williams, Beckford

Saturday, February 03, 2018

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The fourth season of the Berger Elite League netball competition is drawing to an end after what has been another season of thrilling action on the courts.

The Manchester Spurs and the Kingston Hummingbirds are facing each other in the best-of-three finals, both seeking the right to call themselves champions.

While both teams are battling each other, there is an interesting “Battle of the Besties” that is also taking place as life-long friends, Shanice Beckford and Khadijah Williams go up against each other for the ultimate prize in Jamaican netball.

Inseparable off the court, the two have never had the luxury of being drawn on the same team in the four years of the competition. Having to face each other in the final will have no negative effects on their friendship, as they both outlined.

“It feels good that we both made it to the finals and it feels like any other game since we are now used to playing against each other. We spoke about us both facing off on the final and how good it would be,” was the response that came from Williams.

“It doesn't feel any way going up against her. I think we are used to playing against each other by now. We actually spoke about wanting our teams in the finals,” Beckford said.

Having played together since 2010 at the Under-13 level, they both had to endure a difficult time away from each other when Beckford took up an opportunity to play overseas in the 2015-2016 season of the professional league in England. Both were given the opportunity to play, but Williams decided to remain in Jamaica to study at the University of Technology. They both admitted to having challenges adjusting to not having the other one around.

Said Beckford: “It was difficult when I left because I was so used to doing everything with her and used to her sorting stuff out for both of us. So jetting off on a new chapter and not having her there to share that moment with was difficult. I eventually came to terms with it and was able to pull through at the end.

According to Williams: “It was very difficult when she went (away), especially since we do everything together. Going to class was a bit challenging at first since she wasn't there and going to training was awkward, but we made it through, I guess.”

Williams, whose favourite position is wing attack, is possessed with great athletic ability and is an extremely fierce competitor. She says the best part of her “bestie's game is her ability to move and the height she gets while jumping. It's always a pleasure watching her play.”

The UTech student could be heard screaming her lungs out for her “bestie” on Tuesday night after having already secured her own spot in the final.

Beckford is a deadly shooter and plays goal attack. She is also lightning-quick in the shooting circle. She is, however, just as impressed with Williams's.

“The best part of Khadijah's game is her ability to move quickly down the court and through the court and she is pretty versatile.

Beckford was a member of the St Ann Orchids team when they won last year and is looking to claim a second straight title, albeit with another team. For Williams, however, the hunt for a first Berger Elite League title continues and this final provides a golden opportunity.

Williams was originally concerned about changing teams, based on the draft system used to select players for clubs, but after the completion of the draft, her mind was set at ease.

“I got selected on the Spurs with persons who I am familiar with, so it was good. My aim at the start of the season was just to play and improve my game, but as we started playing together as a team the thought then came to me that we could go all the way.”

“Devastated” was how Beckford described the feeling of having to switch from the Orchids after winning the title with them last season, but after coming to grips with the change, things started to “fly” for her at the Hummingbirds.

“At the beginning I was devastated because I did not want to change teams, especially after winning the year before, but then I eventually accepted the changes after seeing my teammates and playing a few games, of course. Eventually the thought came about that my team could be in the final,” she explained.

The outcome of the final will have no bearing on their friendship, they both assured, echoing similar sentiments.

Said Williams: “It's just a game and eventually we will one day not play anymore and I'm sure she will be here after it's all done. So the outcome will most definitely not affect our friendship.”

Said Beckford: The outcome cannot and will not break our friendship. It's just a game and I'm pretty sure when we decide to hang up our sneakers she will be right there just the same.”

After one year in England where she played with Nortumbria, Beckford is playing catch-up to Williams at UTech. But things are not as bad, as she can borrow books and notes from her classmate as they are both doing a Business Administration degree in Marketing with a minor in Accounting.

Don't be surprised if one day in the future Jamaica is blessed with a firm called Williams and Beckford or Beckford and Williams with the besties at the helm.

At the moment, however, Beckford is closer to creating history by winning consecutive titles with two different teams after her Hummingbirds defeated her bestie's Spurs 61-52 in game one of the finals Thursday night.

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