Stella Maris dances back here

For the sake of further development, Cayman netball will enlist the aid of the performing arts once again.

The Cayman Islands Netball Association will be bringing in the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble next month. The Jamaican group, known for their socially conscious routines, were here last May and are slated to return to the Harquail Theatre.

Association president Lucille Seymour states the ensemble represents the biggest fundraiser for local netball.

“Our next big fundraiser will be the Stella Maris dancers on 20-22 July, just after the referendum,” Seymour said. “They are back after popular demand. Last year was a big fundraiser and a success. That’s why we fundraise from early; we want one big fundraiser instead of three or four smaller ones as there are many others pulling from the same pool.”

The association needs the funding to support the development of various programmes and offset the cost of hiring a technical director. This month, Aussie Gillian Lee was brought in on a two-year contract to serve as Cayman’s technical director and national coach of netball. The association is reportedly paying her $50,000 out of the $77,393 government budgeted for the sport, according to the 2011-2012 purchase agreement between Cabinet and the association.

Lee was previously in Melbourne serving as Monash University Central head coach for nearly a decade. She is Cayman’s first national coach since the late Jean Pierre years ago.

Seymour states that expenditure is a necessary one for the long-term future of the sport.

“If it’s going to survive, netball needs the best talent around the coaches. With Jean, she was good and showed technical directors must love kids and want them to progress at a competent level.

“Gillian is coming to work on the promotion and the public relations development of the game here. She will be here to work with any person who coaches netball, especially at a competitive level. With any sport, if you don’t develop the coaches the game dies. We want to make sure the sport is a character builder and a pillar of pro-social development of children. Sports are not just for competition but to help with the social landscape.”

Netball is one of six focus sports in Cayman, with the others being athletics, basketball, cricket, football and swimming. It is also one of the latest to name a technical director with swimming recently hiring Brit Ian Armiger for that position.

According to Director of Sports Collin Anglin, Lee’s salary compares favourably to other technical directors as their earnings are between $50,000 and $60,000.

Anglin states half of Cayman’s technical directors, namely athletics’ Kenrick Williams, basketball’s Victor ‘Voot’ O’Garro and cricket’s Theo Cuffy, have many years of local experience to substantiate their paychecks.

“Initially they were consultants, which differs to the time they were hired by government,” Anglin said. “Those three technical directors have been here over 10 years, I would say at least 12-15 years.

“Football, our national sport, was one of the first to have its technical director position move over to an association years ago. Government still gives them (technical directors) huge support with essentially grants for their salaries. But now they report to their respective associations, not government.”

For the record, the Stella Maris ensemble focuses on various aspects of Jamaican culture from its history to religion. Last year the group also imparted dance moves from genres such as mento and skat to local school children.

Seymour hopes their presence allows Lee to remain in Cayman beyond the initial two years.

“We want netball to be a household name. At this point, I’d like to thank the Minister of Sports, the Honourable Mark Scotland, for his support and persistence. For me, he’s the one who really pushed it.

“We don’t have the resources Australia have and we hope Gillian likes Cayman and will want to stay. We need a little public support to ensure she stays and she needs a reasonable amount of money to live. Government helps but it’s on the association. This is netball’s time, it has produced many persons in leadership positions in the community. We shouldn’t let netball fall behind. If you develop the woman, the rest of society will follow suit.”