On Wednesday 7th February 2018 the Netball touring squad flew out of Gatwick and began their ten-day tour of Barbados.
The island immediately captured the hearts of the Marlborough team who enjoyed their immersion into Caribbean culture. With the nearby netball court within walking distance of the hotel, the girls had much opportunity to train together with initial sessions focusing on movement, spatial awareness and individual error reduction. St George Secondary School was the location of our first fixture, the St George motto of ‘Be constant, aspire and achieve’ setting an exemplary tone for both matches. The squad acclimatised well throughout this fixture and proved that their netball could rise to the occasion in 30°C heat. Gifts were exchanged at the closing of the match and girls enjoyed a customary Barbadian three cheers, hand in hand with their opposition.
The tour continued with some down-time under the shade of the palm trees, with the full squad competing in a Beach Volleyball and Boules tournament. This instilled an early sense of camaraderie, competitiveness and integration, all essential elements for a touring side. Recovery sessions led by James Davies, Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach, kept the girls physically and mentally primed as we entered tournament day. Play began in the blistering sunshine and ended under floodlights, Marlborough once again showing their quality and strength in depth.
Relaxation came in the form of a trip to the Boatyard where the girls enjoyed each other’s company on the rope swings and ocean trampolines. Almost instantaneously it was back to business with the squad completing a ‘Beach Blast Team Challenge’ featuring bodyweight exercises, interspersed with team running and swimming. The boundless enthusiasm of the group ensured that sufficient energy remained for physical fixtures vs Lester Vaughan Secondary School. With 950 students enrolled between 11 – 17 years of age, Lester Vaughan is a ‘co-ed school which seeks to develop both the academic and sporting abilities of the students’. Similar in size and vision to Marlborough College, we soon felt very at home here.
With the winning streak continuing for Marlborough, it was an evening of celebration at the Harbour Lights Dinner and Show, the chocolate fountain being a particular hit! The next morning we embarked on an Island Jeep Safari, the tour squad travelling in convoy and enjoying sights including Gun Hill Signal Station, Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill and Bathsheba beach.
For our final fixture, we were privileged to be able to play at ‘The Netball Stadium’ for a fierce encounter with the Barbados U16 National Squad. The girls enjoyed the sense of occasion, rose to the challenge and secured an undefeated tour. The Caribbean experience exposed our sides to a more aerial style of play than we are used to, and learning to counter this will be an essential part of our netball armory moving forward. A catamaran cruise was the perfect way to conclude the tour, a precious experience which I hope will be treasured by the pupils for years to come.
The girls were wonderful company throughout and particular praise goes to Georgie Henderson and Ellie Spark for their inspired captaincy. Thank you also to all parents who supported the tour and to Mr Davies and Miss Meehan for their unwavering care of the pupils, adaptability and energy.
Head of Netball