A Brief History of Netball in St. Kitts
By Jillian Musgrave-Archibald
Netball was introduced in St. Kitts during the 1930’s by Mrs. Lucille Sprott-Schouten to the pupils of the St. George’s High School, more commonly known as the Sprott’s School. This Private High School was run by the Sprott family. The game, which was then played at the Old Botanical Gardens, grew in popularity when a few Kittitians who had returned home from school in England began playing at the Gardens as well. With the formation of a Girls’ High School team under the leadership of Miss Miriam Pickard, a Head-mistress from England, friendly games were played among these teams.
The first Netball Club was formed by former pupils of the St. George’s High School. This club which became known as the Amateur Netball Club changed its venue for matches to Warner Park. Since then Warner Park had been the venue for organised netball competitions.
During 1954-55 affiliation with the All England Netball League. After a short decline, the league was re-organised between 1962-63 and name changed to the St. Kitts Netball Association (a name that still stands).
St. Kitts gained valuable experience towards the end the 1950’s when a team from Montserrat visited. Although the home team received a whipping it prepared them for entry into the regional circuit in the sixties. St. Kitts became affiliated to the West Indies Netball Board in 1965 and played in its first West Indies Tournament that same year in Dominica.
In 1972, the St. Kitts Netball Association invited Lystra Lewis M.B.E, of Regional and International Netball frame to conduct Coaching sessions here. This visit was the proverbial ‘shot in the arm’ that netball in St. Kitts needed. With St. Kitts hosting the West Indies Netball Tournament that same year, netball fans and enthusiasts were given the opportunity to witness netball at its best in region. St. Kitts finished a strong and close second behind Trinidad and Tobago (who had made its re-entry on the regional scene two years before)
St. Kitts Netballers showed true girt and determination the following year, 1973 when on foreign soil in Grenada the girls from “Sugar City” wrestled the Dudley Coblam Trophy, Symbol of Netball Supremacy in the West Indies, from the “Calypso lasses” In securing this feat St. Kitts won all of its games.
In 1974, playing on their home soil Trinidad recaptured the title “Netball Queens” of the region. However, St. Kitts placed second in successive tournaments until 1978 when the Dr. Eric Williams Trophy Was won at the Caribbean Championships (formerly West Indies Championships) hosted by St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The fourth CNA Championships were held in St. Kitts in 1980 and St. Kitts placed third in those games. Although facilities have been built in several areas around the islands since then, St. Kitts had not able to reach the pinnacle that had been reached in former years. Yet the association had hosted successful tournaments, and individuals have made their mark on the regional scene.
When the OECS Club Championships were inaugurated in 1985, St. Kitts was the host and we also hosted another in1993. Additionally St. Kitts hosted the second annual OECS/ECCB Sponsored Under 23 Championships in 1992. We have not won any of these championships have placed third on occasions.
Four Kittitians have been named on West Indies Teams although only Heather Pennyfeather has been fortunate to have played in England in 1987. The other three players are Venetta Louad-Adams, Michelle French and Jillian Musgrave-Archibald. Michelle was also named among the top ten players under 21 years of age in the region at the end of the CNA Championships in 1994. In 1995 Kyrle Chumney, Gloria Esdaille, Michelle French and Tessa Gumbs travelled to Antigua to play in the Leeward Team versus a visiting Under 21 All England Netball Team.
The Caribbean Netball Association in 1986 decided to honour persons who had made outstanding contribution to netball in the region. Miss Pamela Tyson famous Administrator in the game at the local and regional level and also the first President of CNA were among the first persons to receive her award in St. Lucia. Yvonne Charles who had served on the Umpires Sub Committee of CNA for a number of years toured England with the West Indies Netball Team in 1991 as umpire. Jillian Musgrave-Archibald has served on the selection committee of CNA and at the Annual general meeting in March of 1996 was elected on the Coaching Sub-Committee as Convener.
A Community League and Business League have been organised in an effort to generate and revive interest in the game.
With the hosting of these championships one could only hope that netballers around the island would rededicate and recommit themselves to playing the game so the height which we once achieved can be recaptured.
From the 17th Caribbean Netball Championships magazine 1996