Tue | Sep 27, 2022

Francis banking on momentum for World Cup push

Wants more support for hard-working girls, warns charges to stay focused

Published:Wednesday | August 10, 2022 | 12:10 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Nicole Dixon-Rochester (left) and Shamera Sterling (centre) of Team Jamaica celebrate victory over New Zealand in the semi-final of the Commonwealth Games at the NEC Arena in Birmingham, England on Saturday.
Nicole Dixon-Rochester (left) and Shamera Sterling (centre) of Team Jamaica celebrate victory over New Zealand in the semi-final of the Commonwealth Games at the NEC Arena in Birmingham, England on Saturday.
Jamaica’s coach Connie Francis speaks to reporters after her Sunshine Girls 103-24 win over the Barbados Gems in Pool A action at the Commonwealth Games inside the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England on Monday August 1.
Jamaica’s coach Connie Francis speaks to reporters after her Sunshine Girls 103-24 win over the Barbados Gems in Pool A action at the Commonwealth Games inside the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England on Monday August 1.
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SUNSHINE GIRLS head coach, Connie Francis, expects her players to maintain the level of focus and maturity they displayed at the Commonwealth Games going into next year’s World Cup in South Africa, where the objective will be similar.

Unlike at the Commonwealth Games though, where the Sunshine Girls were medallist in the event’s last staging, a medal at the World Cup would mark the first time since 2007.

Francis became the first coach to lead Jamaica to a major international championship final.

The proud coach said the players had grown in the three years under her watch, and she expects them to carry the belief and commitment from the Commonwealth Games into the World Cup.

“These girls know that they haven’t won a World Cup medal and it has been 16 years. So it is very important for us to make the podium next year.

“I am confident that they will stay focused and committed because they want this. They dream of this. They want to have a World Cup medal and this showed them what it takes,” she said.

She noted that the maturity of the girls, since arriving in England, had filled her with pride. Francis was also buoyed by the leadership of captain Jhaniele Fowler and vice captain Shamera Sterling who, she says, led by example on and off the field.

“Our vice captain and captain really stood up and their quality on and off the court helped. Shamera said we needed a change in medals, in our attitude and everything and they all agreed,” she disclosed.

FOCUS ON OFFENCE

She said the addition of Australian Rob Wright to the coaching staff was also crucial, as this allowed and her to focus solely on organising the offence.

However, in the final, the girls third quarter syndrome came to the fore once again and basically cost them the gold. But Francis thought it had more to do with the string of injuries their midcourt players struggled with.

“We have this third quarter syndrome, where we don’t do well. So we were tracking our game to see what we were doing and we were improving even when we brought in our bench players, you could see the level of maturity in their game.

“So I cannot fault them because of the effort they showed in (third quarter of) the other games, the depth and resilience was excellence but we had injuries,” she said.

“Most of our mid-court players are carrying injuries and those injuries set in. I changed it and we showed fight but it was against the clock.

“So we were trying to manage their time on court. Playing the final would have been gruelling for them.”

However, she believes support for the team must also step up if they are to go on and medal again in South Africa next year.

“These players needs to improve. Our nutrition needs to improve. It is not every day they can afford the right things to nourish the body. So when injuries come, the body collapses.

“So I am really hoping they can restart the initiative where individuals get sponsored leading up to the World Cup.

“Companies can take on a player and ensure that they are eating right, have transportation and allow them a stipend.

“These girls have put in hard work and dedication but that alone cannot do it. We have set the benchmark very high and we are not looking to step back but to go forward. So we really need some help for players, so they can stay on the right path,” she said.

Jamaica have won three World Cup bronze medals (1991, 2003 and 2007) and have consistently finished in the top five.

livingston.scott@gleanerjm.com