A Short History Of Netball In Nevis

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By Janette Hull

A Nation that encourages sports and gives encouragement to its athletes is enriched in many ways. We make friends through sports. More nations are brought together by sports like cricket, football, athletics, softball, netball and many more.

Netball is one of the many games played in Nevis, but not many Nevisians know the role this game has played over the years, nor even how it started. Did you know that netball has put Nevis on the world map? If not, please read on.

Netball originated in the United States of America, and was introduced to the Caribbean by Physical education officers from England who came to the Islands on teaching assignments. Althought the game is played in the USA , it is not popular, whereas it is popular in the United Kingdom.

Netball in Nevis is without a doubt the outstanding women’s sport. Prior to 1950 Netball was introduced and played by the Excelsior School on the grounds of St Pauls Rectory. An annual competition was held between the Excelsior School of Nevis and the Girls High School from St Kitts. 1939 - 1940 saw a change. Schools no longer exchanged visits, but ex-pupils from the Excelsior School and the Girls High School played matches in both islands with Nevis always winning. 1945 - 1955 teams from the Charlestown Girls School and ex -pupils from the Charlestown Secondary School practiced at Liburd’s Yard (the ground on which the Administration Building now stands).

In the late 1950's with Mrs Dora Stevens as Games Mistress at the Charlestown Secondary School, netball got a shot in the arm. BY 1960, several teams were formed on the Island and practiced at Grove Park and the Charlestown Secondary School ground.

In 1972, with the assistance of Mrs Lystra Lewis of Trinidad and Tobago, the Nevis Netball Association was formed with Mrs. Cicely Grell-Hull as its first President. A Netball Competition was held ( named the Lystra Lewis Netball Championships) embracing the Sneekers Netball Club from Charlestown, the Musketeers Netball Club from Gingerland and the Secos Netball Team from the Charlestown Secondary School. Mrs Lewis donated a Trophy for the Championships, which was to be competed for annually. The Charlestown Secondary School had the distinction of registering the first lien on the Lystra Lewis Trophy.

From that competition the first island team was selected to represent Nevis,. It participated in the West Indies Netball Tournament which was held in St Kitts in August of that same year. I am sure Nevis could have been safely placed into the Guinness Book of Records,being defeated by Trinidad 117 goals to NIL. To date this record has not been broken.

In 1974 Mrs Dora Stevens and Ms Jeanette Grell-Hull represented Nevis at the inaugural meeting of the Caribbean Netball Association, held in Antigua. This brought an end of one era and the beginning of another, The name and the organizational structure were changed to accommodate wider participation in the Caribbean.

In 1978 a joint St Kitts-Nevis State Netball Association was formed with members from Nevis Netball Association and the St Kitts Netball Association.This joint association then became a member of the International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA). This then allowed the first ever National State Team from StKitts-Nevis to enter the World Netball Tournament which was held in Trinidad and Tobago in August of 1997. Mrs Dora Stevens and Mrs Cicely Grell-Hull served on the executive committee of that association.

Nevis participated in every tournament up to 1985, except 1977 (Bermuda) and 1981 (Bahamas), due to lack of funds. The progress and improvement of netball in Nevis was partly due to the coaching services in 1975 and 1976 of Miss Nesta Dallas from Jamaica. Out of that coaching the following important factors emerged:-

1) The selection of Cresentia O’Flaherty and Jeanette Grell-Hull to the St Kitts-Nevis State Team which participated in the World Tournament held in Trinidad and Tobago in August 1979.

2) Jeanette Grell-Hull scoring the highest number of goals in the Caribbean Championships which was held in St Kitts in 1982. This was the first time that any one had beaten Trinidad to the top scorers position.

3) Cresentia O’Flaherty being selected to the West Indies Netball Team in 1988, and touring Australia as a member of that team in 1989

4) Cresentia O’Flaherty and Lydia Thompson being selected as members of the OECS Netball Team and Cresentia O’Flaherty holding the position on Vice Captain of that same team which played competitive matches against Australia,  Canada and England in the Caribbean in 1989.

4) Cresentia O’Flaherty being selected as Captain of the Leeward Island Netball Team that played against Australia in Antigua in 1990.

5)Cresentia O’Flaherty being selected for the second time to the West Indies Netball Team which toured the Caribbean and played matches in St Lucia, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda.

Up to 1974, netball in Nevis was played on grass courts. It was a blessing in disguise when a sudden shower of rain poured onto Grove Park and washed out a competitive match between a Nevis island team and a team from Molyneaux in St Kitts. It was then the late Premier of the State of St Kitts and Nevis, The Hon Robert L Bradshaw took cognizance and built the first hard court in Nevis on the very ground where the Netball Complex now stands.

From the inception of Nevis taking part in the West Indies and Caribbean Tournaments, the Roster indicated that Nevis should host the Caribbean Tournament in 1980. There were no facilities for hosting such a tournament, so Nevis was by-passed and an opportunity lost, but not forgotten.

In 1983 Nevis was again earmarked as the venue for the 1985 Caribbean Tournament. With foresight and determination, under the presidency of Ms Myrna Walwyn and Ms. Jeanette Grell-Hull as secretary, Mr Eldon Jones, a Nevisian born engineer was approached for assistance. He offered to design, free of charge a singular and unique netball stadium in the Caribbean as his contribution to netball and the island of Nevis.

Government was constantly approached and made aware of the fact that Nevis was to host the Caribbean Netball Tournament in 1985. Finally, the Premier’s Ministry invited a netball delegation to an official meeting. The president, Ms. Myrna Walwyn, with a full executive along with Mr Eldon Jones met with the Premier, The Hon Simeon Daniel and his permanent secretary, Mr Joseph Parry. Very deep and meaningful discussions were held which resulted in a firm commitment being made to the association, guaranteeing that the Netball Complex would be built and completed to host the 1985 Caribbean Netball Tournament. To our pride and joy this was accomplished.

From 1986 to 1993, the standard of Netball began to decline, This was mainly due to the lack of proper management, dedication and commitment. In 1994, the Director of Community Affairs, Mr Hensley Daniel invited interested persons to attend a meeting which was held in the Methodist Church Conference Hall, Charlestown.. This meeting was to revive Netball in Nevis.

Ms. Jeanette Grell-Hull was elected president.

Since 1994, Nevis has taken part in:-

1) Caribbean Tournament, St Vincent, 1994

2) OECS Under 23 Netball Tournament, Antigua, 1994

3) OECS Club Tournament, St Vincent , 1995

4) OECS Under 23 Netball Tournament, Grenada, 1995

5) OECS Club Tournament, Nevis, 1996

6) OECS Under 23 Netball Tournament , St Lucia , 1996

7) Caribbean Netball Tournament, St Kitts, 1996

8) OECS Under 23 Netball Tournament, Nevis, 1997

9) Best of 5 Series Nevis vs St Kitts ,1997

10) The AFNA Regional Tournament and Qualifying Games, Grenada, 1997.

11)   OECS Under 23 Tournament In St Vincent  June 1998

12) Caribbean Netball Championships In St Lucia, August 1998

13) Under 17 Invitational Tournament In St Kitts, April 1998

14) Under 16 Inaugural Youth Tournament In Antigua, December 1998

15) OECS Club Championships In Antigua May 1999

16) OECS Under 23 Championships In St Kitts In June 1999

Seven players qualified from Nevis to represent the Federation at the AFNA Tournament which was held in Grenada. They were : Shantal Isles, Vera Herbert, Jasmine Charles,Celia Powell, Karen Hobson, Lydia Thompson-Claxton

(Vice Captain) and Dionne Howell. Nevis also hosted the OECS Club Tournament in 1996 and OECS Under 23 Netball Tournament in 1997. At the conclusion of the Club Tournament in 1996 Miss Vera Herbert was voted the most outstanding Center Court Player In the OECS. Miss Nathalie Nisbett was voted one of the most outstanding Center Court Players in the Caribbean at the conclusion of the Caribbean Tournament which was held in St. Vincent in 1994.

Miss Karen Hobson, Miss Nathalie Nisbett, Miss Rhonda Parris and Miss Fayola Browne was selected a members of the Leeward Islands Team which met in Antigua in 1994 to play matches against a touring All England Under 21 Netball Team.

In 1996 Ms Jeanette Grell-Hull, President of the Nevis Netball Association was installed as 2nd Vice President of the Caribbean Netball Association (CNA) at the conclusion of the Caribbean Tournament which was held in St Kitts. Mrs Leonora Walwyn-Bowrin, her Vice President, in the Nevis Association was nominated to serve on the Marketing Sub- Committee of CNA. Ms Jeanette Grell-Hull, was installed as 1st Vice President of CNA at the Conclusion of thatTournament which was held in St Lucia in August 1998.. Ms Hull , President of the St Kitts-Nevis Netball Association was chosen to Manage the AFNA Netball Team that toured Australia in June 1998.

In March 1998 Vera Herbert and Lydia Thompson Claxton was chosed to practice on the Netball West Indies Squad with a view of gaining selection on the West Indies that toured England and Wales. Lydia Thompson-Claxton, not only gained selection on the team, but was named Captain of the West Indies Team which played three test Matches against England and won the Test Series 2-1.

In May 1999 , at the end of the OECS Club Netball Championships that was held in Antigua, Shantal Isles got an award for the Top Shooter in the OECS with an average of 89.5%. Nathalie Nisbett was named MVP for her team and also the most Outstanding Center Player in the OECS.

In the short existence , 27 years of organized netabll, Nevis is a force to be reckoned with.. Netball in Nevis is firmly established with the sponsorship of the local league by the Four Seasons Resort and the continued financial support by the Nevis Island Government and the business sector.

The Nevis Netball Association conducts regular seminars for umpires and coaches , and on April 04th. 1998 opened the first ever netball clinic for players under 16 years of age with 52 students on roll. Association Membership stands at 11 Clubs/Teams. The Pace Setters, Spartans, Pioneers, Mountain Rockers, Nurses, Tuxedos, SJCIC, Marvelites,Charlestown Secondary School. Gingerland High School and St Thomas Primary School.

This is , in brief how we started and where we came from to get where we are today.

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