JAMAICA'S netballer Shamera Sterling says while the Sunshine Girls have outstanding individual players, the team is not realising its “full potential” because of deficiencies in preparation and training.
The Jamaicans, rated fourth in the world, lost 1-2 to third-ranked England in a three-Test series on English soil earlier this month.
The series gave Head Coach Connie Francis and her technical staff valuable insight ahead of the netball competition at next summer's Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. The 2023 Netball World Cup, which is to be staged in Cape Town, South Africa, is also on the agenda.
For the 26-year-old Sterling, one of the top defensive players in the world, the recent matches against England Roses exposed areas of concern.
“I'd love for the team to get more structure in how we play. At the moment the team isn't at its full potential, based on the fact that we have great players individually but we are unable to put them together for it to work,” the goalkeeper told the Jamaica Observer.
Sterling, who plays professionally for Adelaide Thunderbirds in Australia's top-tier netball league, was exceptional in the third contest against England, claiming the most valuable player award in Jamaica's consolation victory.
But, despite winning the individual accolade, she expressed frustration when reflecting on the state of the national team.
“I just think that for the past two years now I'm not shining in the team as how I'm supposed to be. I'm playing consistent netball in Australia and then when I get back to Jamaica and see the state of how the girls approach training, or even what is being given to them in training, it's like I'm taking a step backward. And because this is a team sport it's hard to put together my strength to the team because the full strength of the team is not being worked on. And when I say this I mean structure, discipline,” she lamented.
The Jamaican women claimed bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, but could only place fifth at the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool, England.
Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced countless disruptions to sporting events globally, the Sunshine Girls have been involved in limited international competition for the better part of two years. After participating in a four-nation tournament in early 2020 there had been protracted inactivity until a 3-0 Test series sweep of visitors Trinidad and Tobago in October this year.
Sterling is imploring the Tricia Robinson-led Netball Jamaica to engage partners who can help to provide the resources to the benefit of the senior team programme.
“I think what's lacking in the team is chemistry and proper training… not just on court but off court as well. Some things we can't control as players, but Netball Jamaica will hopefully sort out everything in time for the Commonwealth Games.
“Hopefully, leading up to the Commonwealth Games, Netball Jamaica will [improve] the situation [that] the netball team is in. And with this we have financial issues, so hopefully corporate Jamaica can come on board, as we have a sporting discipline with great players and a country with great coaches,” she told the Observer.
“Let's come together to help and put back Jamaica's netball team on track because the girls love the sport, but it becomes discouraging when you're not getting anything from it,” Sterling urged.
Though preferring the goalkeeper position, Sterling is often rotated to goal defence by Francis. She led the visitors' defensive unit admirably in the recent matches against the English women, though two of those performances came in losing causes.
After the 45-55 and 47-66 losses — which condemned Jamaica to a first series defeat to the Roses since 2013 — the Sunshine Girls strode to a 63-53 win in the final match.
Sterling stood out, combining with Kadie-Ann Dehaney to force the Roses into a number of turnovers.
“It was important to us to get that win for the last Test because England hadn't beaten us in a three-Test series since 2013, so it was good to put extra pride and passion in ensuring that we didn't get whitewashed.
“I think what we did well as a team was to put in more passion. England have always been our biggest rivals, so any time we go on court [against them] it's time to play hard,” she explained.