SHE'S GOT GAME: "For any team to do well, you have to get adequate support," insists the captain, pictured below with sister and team-mate Romelda Aiken.
In the ubercompetitive world of team sports there are those captains who relish their moment in the spotlight simply to stand out as leader of the pack. Then there are those whose vision of success constitutes the building of morale and interpersonal dynamics and championing the mantra that together everyone achieves more. Count Nicole Aiken-Pinnock among the latter group. The statuesque captain of Jamaica's senior netball squad, the Sunshine Girls, remains resolute that her approach should involving leading from the front, yes, but including her teammates in the decision-making is paramount.
"Being the captain is not at all about me; it's about the ladies, and the decisions that are made we make them together," she tells TALLAWAH during a Friday morning phone interview ― a day before the squad is due to embark on a three-test series against perennial archrivals England. "It's an honour and a privilege being captain of the team, leading them on and off the court, and getting the support from them means a lot." And though the Sunshine Girls have home-court advantage in what promises to be a keenly contested battle of wills, Aiken-Pinnock makes it clear that sticking to the game plan holds the key to victory. "We most definitely have to maintain that level of discipline when we take the court against England [this weekend]," explains the avid sportswoman, who competes at the club level for Jamalco. "We've been in camp since Monday, and it's keeping us focussed. Once we stick to the plan, the victory will be ours."
TALLAWAH: What has being a sportswoman taught you about life in general?
Nicole Aiken-Pinnock: Being a sportswoman has taught me a lot. It can be a challenge sometimes, but when you have a passion for a sport you look beyond the challenge and focus on the enjoyment. I totally have a love for netball, and I want to contribute to the development of the sport in Jamaica. Whenever I go anywhere I always talk about netball. I want to see it grow and develop further as a national team sport.
TALLAWAH: What will it take for the Sunshine Girls to finally ascend to #1 in the world rankings?
N.A.P.: It will take a lot, and not just in terms of work on the court. For any team to do well, you have to get adequate support. We have to get the resources, and that is something we are lacking at this point. To become number one we have to beat countries like Australia and New Zealand that are way ahead of us in terms of those resources. So it's about getting the entire Jamaica behind us and giving us maximum support. Jamaica has a lot of natural talent and the Sunshine Girls have a lot of natural talent. We just need the support to perform to the best of our abilities.
TALLAWAH: The Sunshine Girls and the English Roses have a fierce rivalry that goes way back. What do you think accounts for that?
N.A.P.: I really don't know. Both teams are very good, and they always provide great competition for us, and we provide the same for them. And it's not just between Jamaica and England; it's very competitive among all the top teams. The ball is round, so on any given day any one can win. When it comes to Jamaica and England, we believe we are better than them, and they believe they are better than us. And the same goes for all the top teams in the sport.
TALLAWAH: Speaking of competition, is there any trace of sibling rivalry between you and your superstar sis Romelda?
N.A.P.: Why should there be? We support each other very much. On the court, she's at one end and I'm at the other end, and we both work very hard to ensure that the team gets the victory. Off the court we have a normal sister relationship, but we are two opposite personalities. We are very crazy though. We've learned how to have fun, and once she's in Jamaica, we hang out and catch up on life.
TALLAWAH: You must be so proud of the mark she's making on the international scene.
N.A.P.: Yeah, it's an accomplishment we are all proud of, knowing where she started from. And now we see her blossoming into a beautiful woman, and it's fantastic to have her as part of the family.
TALLAWAH: JNA President Marva Bernard is such a valiant trooper for you girls and the rest of the national team. You are all incredibly fortunate to have her.
N.A.P.: She's a great leader who works constantly to make sure that we have what we need to grow and perform effectively. So hats off to her for doing what she does. She's someone we can always count on, and we want to let her know that we are indeed grateful for all she's done.
> NICOLE'S PERSONALS: On the cusp of turning 29; completed studies at Clarendon College before enrolling at the GC Foster College; enjoys life's simple pleasures. "I'm a very laid-back person really," she confesses. "I'm always at church, if I'm not on the court. I like relaxing the body, movies and being at the beach."