Most people think of netball as a women’s sport and as result there are very few men involved.
The norm is that women coach, umpire and keep the stats for the games. But one man, Caymanian Eddie Solomon, is a big exception to that rule.
Solomon has been on the local netball since 1983. He has coached, umpired, kept stats and even played on occasion.
These days he can be found at the netball courts at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex umpiring games in the senior women’s league.
Solomon credits much of what he knows from a stalwart in Cayman netball, the late Jean Pierre.
‘I played in the past before I umpired and I learned to play from the greatest player in the world in Jean Pierre.
‘She was a mom to me and I was her son.’
In spite of being a rare male figure on the court, it would be easy to lose sight of the 43-year-old George Town native.
His style of umpiring is active, quiet and loaded with more hand signals than a traffic cop.
As Eddie Solomon, brother of Wendell, George, Louis ‘Bussey’, Victoria, Virginia and the late Truman Solomon, explains he’s merely doing what the professionals do.
‘The style in which I umpire doesn’t call for me to talk much. I just use plenty of signals. I learned that from Jean Pierre and I give her thanks for that.
‘If I want to be the best I have to do it the right way.’
Solomon also learned much about how to umpire from witnessing top level netball in Jamaica.
In his early days as an umpire he would travel there every two weeks to build up his skill and match experience.
There he witnessed a fast-paced version of the sport where the only talking was done by the players on the court.
In addition Solomon would find the trip got him into shape and allowed him to meet many influential figures. Among them is his good friend Connie Francis, the Jamaica national netball coach.
Those trips would allow Solomon to come close being part of netball on a grander stage.
‘When I was training in Jamaica I was approached by Australian and New Zealand coaches,’ Solomon says. ‘They wanted to take me to New Zealand as a coach. But I had no funds from government to support me and that was a disappointment for me.’
However he would reach great highs on the local scene. According to Solomon he is the only coach to have a primary school team score 123 points and allow none while with Savannah Primary School in 2000.
He was also part of numerous Cayman squads that went off island and did well in tournaments in places like Jamaica, the US and Canada.
Through it all Solomon was driven by a deep-rooted love for netball.
‘I love netball and I want to help it grow. I’m willing to help anyone learn in the sport.
‘Netball is one of my dreams, one of my passions. It’s a thinking sport and it has helped me to focus in other sports.’
Solomon was an avid sportsman in his younger days. In the 90s he played football, cricket, basketball, did track and field and just about any sport he could find in Cayman.
In football he played for the national team on several occasions including with the U19, U23, U25 and senior team.
Solomon was primarily a goalkeeper and claims to have begun representing his country at 12.
Local football figure Winston Chung made a great impression on him.
‘Winston Chung was my father in football and helped me tremendously in that sport. With his help I won the knockout, cup and league titles and for one year allowed only five goals in a season.’
Furthermore, Solomon would render his services to local football clubs Bodden Town, Scholars, Police and Strikers (who are now George Town).
In local basketball he played for Tarheels, refereed games on occasion and even served as assistant women’s coach.
On the track he excelled in the 100 metres, long and triple jump events.
Solomon jokes the only sport he has not and would not try is ice hockey as he ‘can’t skate on no ice’.
His sporting life came from a desire to keep busy.
‘I just love to be active and I guess it was in the blood as my father (the late Herbert Solomon) played a few sports in Isle of Pines. My mom (Mary-Jane Rachel) also encouraged me.’
Even as he has gotten older Solomon has found it hard to slow down. When he’s not on the netball court he referees in the youth football league in the U13-U17 divisions.
Even with so much sports commitments he was able to find time for a life outside the lines. He is currently employed with APS Security (and his grateful for being able to work alongside local football referee Alfredo Whittaker).
Solomon also has two daughters in Kimberly and Kayla Solomon. The girls got plenty of athleticism from dad as they too have become netball players.
Kayla, a George Hicks High School student, plays for a school team [and won a title with the squad] and was on a Cayman team that went to Jamaica last year.
Meanwhile Kimberly, a student at the University College of the Cayman Islands, made the U15 national netball team aged nine.
She went to Truth For Youth and won a championship there.
Ultimately, Solomon is committed to the sport of netball and feels Cayman is on the verge of greatness.
‘Cayman has the talent. The girls here could go anywhere in the world and compete with any team.
‘Sports took me places and I know it can do the same for someone else.’
In the meantime, Solomon will silently roam the netball courts, watching some of Cayman’s best talent with a whistle on hand.
Eddie Solomon is devoted to local netball
Cayman has the talent to play with anyone
Solomon doesn’t miss a play as an umpire
Photos: Matthew Yates