For most Canadians, the chance to represent your country is typically associated with mainstream sports like hockey or track and field, played on a grand scale such as the Olympics or a World Championship event.
Though competing in a sport such as netball may not draw the same reverence as hockey, for national team members Tamara Rowe, Sasha-Lee Allen and Shantel Wynn, the opportunity is nothing short of Olympic-proportioned.
It will be a lifetime experience for the three Scarborough women who will help represent Canada in Singapore next month at the Six Nation Series of netball.
Similar to basketball, the objective of the netball is to score the most points in an allotted time by shooting a ball into basket. With netball, there’s no dribbling, the basket has no backboard and is played with six players (instead of five) at assigned positions, restricting where they go on the court.
Team members spoke about their athletic dreams while attending Netball Ontario’s annual presentation dinner and dance on Nov. 21 in Toronto.
“We’re all really excited. I think we have a really good chance of doing very well,” Allen said. Like many of her teammates, the 23-year-old Malvern resident is relishing the chance to compete in a new and completely different atmosphere.
All three members were born in Jamaica, where they grew up playing the sport. When their families immigrated to Canada, they each looked for ways to play the sport and eventually found their way onto the national team.
“They’re really skilled and very passionate,” said Narmatha Thavarasalingam of her fellow teammates. She explained that the sport is more appealing to women, which translates into a great sense of camaraderie and closeness when playing, regardless of the team.
“Being on the same team, it brings us very close together,” said Rowe, 34, a Woburn resident and national team member since 2006. “Usually we play against each other on local teams and you would never really talk to opponents outside the games.”
The road to Singapore was not easy. Since playing for the team isn’t a full-time commitment, players had to push off work just to attend. In addition, without government funding, they also had to raise over $3,000 in order to pay the trip. But amongst all the troubles, the team is in it together to make things happen.
“We don’t judge each other,” said Wynn, who at 21 is the youngest member of the team.
Currently attending Centennial College, Wynn said she is missing the last two weeks of class and has to write exams early in order to make the trip.
“Even with all the pressures we have, it’s all worth it,” Wynn said. “The sport is the best thing to ever happen to me.”
The tournament, which runs from Dec. 6 to 12, is a qualifying event for the Commonwealth Games, which serves as the sport’s version of the world championships. Although Canada will be the tournament’s lowest world ranking country at 21st place, the team is confident their skills and teamwork will carry them against the competition.
“We really think we can win the tournament,” Rowe said. “If we win all our games, we can improve our ranking, and hopefully that can lead to funding.”
For more about the tournament and netball, visit http://netballontario.com/no/