Tuesday, 2 February 2016

ON THE BALL: Netball Jamaica boss Paula Daley-Morris brings a vision of growth and development for the sport nationally (PART 1)

GAME PLAN: "I'm no daunted at all. I was prepared, so I know what to do," says Daley-Morris.

Dr. Paula Daley-Morris always knew that one day she would serve as President of Netball Jamaica. This is not because of a gut feeling or a dream or out of ambition to reach the highest post in the association. It’s all because of a thing called succession planning, and Netball Jamaica is all about succession planning.

“It’s something I knew I would do. I was the First Vice-President under [immediate past president] Marva Bernard, so I’ve basically moved up. It’s the culmination of what we’ve been working on for years now,” says Daley-Morris, whose passion for the sport dates back to her days as a schoolgirl attending St. Andrew Technical. “Marva knew I had to run for this job, so the strategic planning was there, and it was up to me to pay close attention to everything, so that when the time came it would be an easy transition.”

Even though Daley-Morris was a shoo-in for the job in the wake of Bernard’s exit after 10 years, in November 2015, she still needed a little push to take her rightful place at the helm. “A lot of people thought I was the right person for the job, and I knew I had their support, so they helped me to make the final decision,” she says. “It’s an important job, and I feel ready to serve in this capacity. I’m not daunted. I was prepared, so I know what I have to do.”

It remains to be seen what results Daley-Morris’s tenure will yield for the sport nationally but, according to former Sunshine Girls head coach Maureen Hall, one thing is certain. “Netball at this time requires [a leader] who understands the game, who understands that the game has changed fundamentally, who understands that we have to put in a lot of groundwork because the rest of the world is way, way ahead of us,” Hall tells TALLAWAH. “We cannot rest on our laurels because a lot of the methodologies and pathways we have taken before are no longer relevant. So we have to rethink how we have done things and come up with a new perspective.”

On a golden Tuesday afternoon, Daley-Morris is seated behind her office desk up at Netball House, a tranquil and inviting spot on Widcombe Drive (in the vicinity of Barbican, St. Andrew). Sporting a gorgeous LBD (little blue dress), tasteful jewelry and a pleasant face, she is at work on her laptop taking care of netball business. Newly hired Technical Manager, Arlene Findlay, is seated at her desk a few feet away. Within minutes, Daley Morris is outlining for TALLAWAH the massive restructuring that has taken place within the organization, the multiple changes that have been made to the leagues and the strategic goals being worked on to get the Sunshine Girls to the top of the world rankings.

Daley-Morris is utterly candid and buzzes with a garrulous energy as she delves into the big plans the team is working on to revolutionize the sport locally. “The vision is to become number one in the world, but as we draw closer it becomes harder. We now have to do things differently,” she admits, a whiff of yearning in her voice. “We have introspected. We’ve looked at our mistakes from over the last 10 years, and we have decided to do things differently this time around.” 
Daley-Morris says her top priority involves taking a comprehensive approach to managing the growth of the sport. As such, the programmes are being devised to sustain netball in Jamaica for years to come. “We are changing the way we do our leagues because we want to establish a proper training cycle for the [Sunshine Girls],” she says. That cycle, she goes on to explain, will include strength and conditioning, development, pre-competition and competition levels of preparation. 

“When your training cycle is off, your body cannot perform at the standard that it is supposed to in international competition. So that is something we have taken into account,” she explains. “We’re re-planning the whole competition year, so all the elite competitions will happen at the same time. We knew all along that we’d have to get to this stage. We have the ideas, but what will make them credible are the plans to execute.” 

Well into her mid-40s, Paula’s supreme confidence in her abilities stems largely from the vast expertise she’s gained over the years the old-fashioned way: through diligent hard work and amassing on-the-job experience. In addition to Bernard, she’s learned from the greats like Hall (whom she served as assistant back in the day) and by serving in such capacities as National Under 21 coach, National Fitness Coach, squads coordinator and games analyst. 

An alumna of the GC Foster College, UWI Mona, and New York’s Rochester University, Daley Morris played basketball (she won a b-ball scholarship in her youth), loves soca and enjoys travelling to foreign destinations. But, netball aside, her life’s biggest passion is teaching in the field of Information Technology, for which she earned a doctorate in 2009. 

As for her legacy in this area, she’s been a lecturer at the Mona Campus for almost two decades and has brought her IT skills to sports by, in her own words, “spearheading the integration of IT in sports.” “I’ve always used my IT skills to help sports in Jamaica. I write a lot on the subject as well, and I try to do a lot of reading and research. And most of this I do because I want to volunteer,” Daley-Morris says. “I’m repaying my debt to society, and I do it with pleasure.”

> Part 2: Maureen Hall shares sound advice for Daley-Morris

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