Co-coaching dilemma
Former national netball coaches ponder pros and cons of joint arrangement
Jamaica's Romelda Aiken-George (left) tries to block a shot from a New Zealand player (right) during the Fast5 netball tournament at Christchurch Arena, Christchurch, New Zealand, in November 2022. Jamaica's Kimone Shaw looks on.

Ahead of their upcoming Fast5 Netball World Series campaign in November, Netball Jamaica (NJ) appointed both former national captain, Nicole Aiken-Pinnock and noted local coach, Shawn Murdock as co-coaches for the Sunshine Girls. However, it's not the traditional route which usually sees the naming of a head coach and an assistant coach. So how effective is the co-coaching situation?

In July 2017, following the dismissal of Jermaine Allison-McCracken as head coach, Marvette Anderson and Sasher-Gaye Henry were named co-coaches of the national team. Although they guided the team to a second-place finish at the Fast5 Netball World Series in October 2017 as well as a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2018, the experience was short-lived. Henry tendered her resignation in May 2018 which led to NJ naming Anderson as head coach and brought in Winston Nevers as her assistant.

Recalling her time with Henry as a co-coach, Anderson told the Jamaica Observer it was a positive one.

"The experience was good," Anderson said. "No one person knows everything, so it's always good that you can learn from another person as well as learn something about yourself.

Sunshine Girls Co-Coach Shawn Murdock (Photo: Collin Reid)

"For me, that experience also taught me about respect. I think it works when both persons have mutual respect for each other and what each person is bringing to the table."

Henry, who was an assistant coach to Allison-McCracken before the switch to co-coaching, agreed that her experience working with Anderson was great but highlighted an issue with the situation.

"My only setback to co-coaching is that sometimes when some critical decisions need to be made, it can be a problem because one person sometimes would have to initiate something based on what they see and you might not have the same view," Henry told the Observer.

Prior to becoming assistant coach to Anderson, Nevers was critical of the move in 2017 and still contends that it isn't beneficial to the team.

Sunshine Girls Co-Coach Nicole Aiken-Pinnock.

"I don't like it because every coach believes they are in charge," he said. "I would prefer somebody as the head and somebody as the second because you can make decisions just the same. As long you and your second are working hand in hand, you can make the same decisions. I would like somebody to take the responsibility and we hold them accountable."

But Nevers did say that high-performance coach with the Sunshine Girls Australian Rob Wright will make the experience easier for Aiken-Pinnock and Murdock.

"What is great about it, and I like the combination, is that Rob has a lot of experience and a lot of expertise," Nevers said. "Rob will make a big difference and I believe he's the leader there and will lead and guide them right through, so that is the plus for me."

Henry is confident that the new co-coaches will have a good working relationship.

NEVERS...I would prefer somebody as the head and somebody as the second because you can make decisions just the same.

"Both coaches are very capable and they have good personalities. I know that Nicole and Shawn will work well together. [They] just [need] to do proper planning; everybody should be accountable for whatever it is that they need to do. I definitely know that it's best to separate and do different areas in terms of strategic plays. Just sit, plan, review, be open and work hard and we'll be pleased with the result," Henry said.

Anderson also advised Aiken-Pinnock and Murdock for their stint: "Respect each other and speak as one voice so that the players understand that when one person speaks at a given time, that person is speaking on behalf of both [coaches]."

Speaking with the Observer earlier this month, NJ First Vice-President Simone Forbes said the appointment of Aiken-Pinnock and Murdock was part of a strategic plan to give local coaches more international experience.

"Shawn joined the programme this year for the World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, and Nicole coached the team at the CAC Games (Central America and Caribbean Games) but they don't have a lot experience at the international level, so we thought it was in the best interest of the programme for us to give these coaches the opportunity to coach at this level," Forbes said.

It remains to be seen whether the set-up will be continued after the Fast5 World Series. The Sunshine Girls are set to be in action November 11-12 in Christchurch, New Zealand, as they look to claim their first world title at the Fast5 World series. In the 2022 edition, a largely inexperienced Jamaica team finished sixth after losing all six of their matches.

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