Merta is multi-talented

The name Merta Day is synonymous with sports, and to the long list of accomplishments she has, Day added another title — Most Valuable Player — in the finals of the Cayman Islands Basketball Association’s (CIBA) National Women’s League.

Her team, Quick Cash Storm, remained undefeated throughout the entire season, even though Day endured much of the season with a nagging injury. In the finals however, she was ready to play her role to maintain her team’s unbeaten run and to take the winner’s trophy.

Forty-three-year-old Day probably began her sporting life when she began to walk. With an athletic body built for running, a commanding height for basketball and netball, the agility and coordination for tae-kwon-do, the strength and endurance for rugby and the hand-eye coordination for squash, Day has competed in just about every sport.

Truth be told, she is one of the lucky ones, who has found a way to turn her passion for sport into a career. She is currently employed with the Cayman Islands Department of Sports as Sports Coordinator for Women. She has been with the department for the past 23 years.

No stranger to sporting awards, Day has won Netballer of the Year ‘many years back’ she recalls. She has been named Player of the Match in rugby and has many middle distance running events to her credit.

She has received the coveted Sports Person of the Year award and was the first person in the history of these islands to be awarded an international medal – as the Tae-kwon-do winner at the Central American Games in Ponce Puerto Rico in 1992. She was also local middle-weight champion.

In 2008, Day was awarded the Sports Woman’s Diploma from the International Olympic Committee for outstanding contribution to the development of sports for girls and women in Cayman Islands.

These days Merta can be found on the cricket pitch as one of the organizers of the ongoing women’s hard pitch cricket program. With the sport branching out to women worldwide Merta has a big part to play in getting Cayman up to speed with everyone else.

Her basketball accolades are pretty impressive as well. She was the first woman to record a triple double as she notched double figures in three statistical categories. Along the way, she says she has earned a variety of titles in the local women’s league and won the MVP award in the 2006 and 2007 seasons. She did not compete in the 2008 league.

Merta started playing basketball seriously in 1992 for the Cayman Women’s National Team, under the tutelage of Rick Catlin. She says she found the game to be fun and was drawn it to due to its high visibility on television.

‘But what I really liked was that everyone on the team got an opportunity to shoot the ball and also because of the scholarship opportunities,’ Day said.

She went on to say she did not set out to be a stats leader this year.

‘I deliberately looked for a team that had reliable players, specifically the centre positions, so that I would have less playing time and could be on the bench, instead of being one of the key players. I also wanted to play for a team that enjoyed playing ball and simply having fun,’ she explained.

She says that sport is important to her because of three things: cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance and flexibility, which she says are key ingredients to a healthy lifestyle.

‘Sports keep me fit, healthy and happy. I get to socialise and meet people, travel the world and be an ambassador for my country. Sports also gave me a scholarship and even though I did not capitalise on it back then, this kind of opportunity can be a blessing to young people whose families cannot afford to pay college tuition fees,’ she added.

Day said she was pleased to receive this year’s award, but was equally surprised because so many of her team-mates played well. ‘I say a huge thank you to my team mates who supported me and made the good passes to me, allowing me the opportunities to score, and thereby allowing us to maintain our winning streak. I must also thank my coach. It was a total team effort, especially since we didn’t even have a team practice, because we were all so busy,’ she said.

Day encourages young women to get started in sports early. ‘The younger you start, the easier it is to learn new skills. Sports provide wholesome activities that can be enjoyed at all levels and keep young people out of trouble,’ she said.

‘There are so many benefits to sports, ranging from a healthy lifestyle, to opportunities for scholarships. Young sports persons must be disciplined and maintain good grades in school,’ she added.

Merta Day is married to Michael and they have a daughter, Chantelle Day, who is one of the top squash players in Cayman and the Caribbean.