It has only been three months but Gillian Lee has had a significant impact on Cayman netball.
The Aussie has staged a number of camps looking to build up local talent and put a new emphasis on playing the sport indoors. Cayman’s technical director for netball states her mission is not to impose a foreign style.
“It’s important I don’t bring in the way that Australia plays,” Lee said. “The athletic abilities differ in Australia and Cayman. We need to exploit the strengths of the Cayman players, like elevation, interceptions/aerial game with more passing and reading the game. We have to exploit those things, which I find fundamental in creating a Cayman style of play.
“At each age group, we can build upon it with the same essence to the younger ones. It wouldn’t take much to progress from the Under-16s, to the U21s to a national women’s team.”
Lee came here in late April to serve as Cayman’s first national coach since the late Jean Pierre many years ago. Her previous assignment was head coach for Australia’s Monash University Central for nearly a decade. She also served as coaching director of netball resource centre Netskills and assistant coach for the Victorian Institute of Sport and the national league’s Melbourne Phoenix.
In her time here, she has staged youth camps around Grand Cayman targeting primary school players, skill clinics for the U16 and U21 girls at George Town’s Truman Bodden Sports Complex ahead of the seventh World Youth Netball Championships in Scotland next summer and pushed for the Cayman Islands Netball Association 2012 open league finals to take place at Camana Bay’s Arts and Recreation Centre for the first time.
For netball association vice president Norma Ferryman, Lee should be commended on her efforts.
“She’s not doing a bad job, in fact she’s doing good with what she came in with,” Ferryman said. “She’s doing her best. I think she’s never been to a country where they don’t invest in their athletes. In other countries, netballers are paid positions.
“We’re developing, she’s trying her best and she will have to build on what we have here.”
For the rest of the summer, netball will continue focusing on clinics. The last week-long primary school camp ends in East End on Friday, 3 August. Sessions for residents in the 11-14, 15-20 and 21 and over categories run in George Town until 28 August. After that comes the mixed league competition at Camana Bay in September.
Netball association president Lucille Seymour states those developments are part of a larger goal for the sport.
“We’re happy to have Gillian here, we want a wider base with netball,” Seymour said. “The emphasis is on youth development. While I agree to work on older players, netball needs a future. There’s no future if there are no resources put on the youth.
“We have to focus our efforts on the U16 and U21 teams to get them the same experience as the older ones. We want a wider base for netball and we want strong youth teams that can compete internationally.”
Interestingly, Lee is the youngest of three daughters and comes from a netball family as her mum and two older sisters played. She began playing in primary school, for a local U16 team, before playing for the Victorian U16 side and Australia’s national U21 squad.
Lee reflected on that journey and her impressions of Cayman.
“My dad passed away many years ago. We all played and I definitely came from a netball family. I love the connection with people I meet. I love being around positive, motivated people and I love people in sports who are passionate, motivated people. That’s certainly something I’d like to convey to netballers here.
“Sport is about passion and being positive. The cliché sport is like life is so true. My two sons, Hayden, 20 and Jarroyd, 18, both do lacrosse and they love it with a passion. They’re also going for an education, specifically mechanical engineering and computer science degrees.
“Cayman, as a country, is absolutely magnificent. I hate cold weather and the temperature here is magnificent for me. My mum is booked to come here in August or September. I came with my husband, Michael ‘Mick’ Lee; he dives and snorkels everyday. Our 25th anniversary is coming up and we’re thinking of going to Little Cayman.
“We’re in George Town with space for my husband and I to work from home. It’s perfect for me. I love the work I’m doing and everyone is so friendly here.”
Early on, much was made of Lee’s salary. She is on a initial two-year contract with a salary of $50,000. Her wages represented a major chunk of the $77,393 allocated to the netball association by the Cayman government, according to the 2011-2012 purchase agreement between Cabinet and the association.
Association coffers did get a boost recently with the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble fundraiser. Lee states she is appreciative of a full-time position.
“I played from when I was 10, wrote books on netball coaching, did seminars and coached. There are not many full-time jobs in netball. You have to be involved in many aspects. Monash University, for example, sponsored the club team. I was there for years but I worked from home and got in certain hours of the day.
“This job has tasks that are very varied and it’s an absolutely perfect fit. I’m used to so many aspects of a job I love doing. I like taking underdog teams; I liked doing that over in Australia at the elite level. Building up a side intrigues me.”