The hierarchy of the Botswana Netball Association (BONA) has admitted that lack of mainstream netball league is adversely affecting the national teams. Two years since BONA last had a mainstream league, the fortunes of the national team have plummeted to new lows. The team hit the lowest of lows during this week’s African Netball Championships as they won only one game, drew another, and lost two.
With African netball powerhouses like Malawi, Uganda and South Africa not available, expectations were high that Botswana will do better. Things however got off to an awry start for Botswana as they lost their first game 44 ÔÇô 42 to the tournament’s lowest ranked team, Swaziland. While Botswana seemed to have bounced back from that defeat with a win against Tanzania, whatever hope local netball supporters had of seeing their team win the championship were quashed as Botswana drew against Zimbabwe before being humbled by Zambia in the last day of the tournament.
Speaking in an interview during the tournament, the coach of the Botswana senior Netball team, Seipei Gaelesiwe lamented that lack of a mainstream league was affecting the national teams. “As it stands at the moment, we are calling players based on their reputations, not on current form. In our preparations for this tournament, all we could muster was to call the players to an occasional camp. However, due to lack of action at their teams, we ended up with problems as they could not carry on with their training schedules as there is no league and teams are inactive,” Gaelesiwe explained.
She said as a result of the inactivity at team level, the technical team and the BONA Executive found it fit to omit some senior players from the national team and to rope in youngsters. “We have the under 21 World Netball championships coming to Botswana in 2017 and we agreed that we have to use any tournament available to build the core of a team that will represent us then.
We felt that this is much more necessary as our teams are inactive and the little tournaments we have are the only way to help them prepare. We then agreed that 40 percent of the team should be players who will be representing us in 2017,” Gaelesiwe said. The senior netball coach said as things stand, the only available tournament that local players have is the BONA Spar Super Stars, which is not enough to keep players active for a season.
For her part, BONA President, Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego concurred that the current lack of league actions is adversely affecting netball national teams. “It goes without saying that mainstream league is crucial for team performances. Unlike with individual sports where a person can train alone or with a single partner, netball is a team sport and you need teams to practice. It is therefore important that we have a mainstream league to keep our players competitive,” the BONA President explained. Apart from enhancing team dynamics, Lebotse-Sebego said having a league is also very crucial as it gives national team selectors a pool to select from. She said for the past two years, her association has only had to rely on the BONA Supers Stars tournament, which by her admission is not enough. “While the BONA Super Stars tournament is very crucial for our national teams, it has only managed to keep our top players active while teams are inactive.
We believe we need a league running parallel with it. This is something which the BONA executive is looking at and we have resolved that whether we have a sponsor or not, we will have a league this year,” the BONA President said. Despite netball having been able to compete admirably on the global stage in the past, Lebotse-Sebego said the code is still finding it hard to attract sponsors. Faced with such challenges, the BONA President said her executive is working around the clock to come up with a good strategy to overcome its challenges.
“We realise we need to come up with a very sound strategy, more especially with the 2017 under 21 World Youth Championships coming. In fact, we have already started doing as such,” the BONA President concluded.