BY ARMSTRONG VAZ
Netball as a sport does not enjoy much of a fan following in Goa but a podium finish at the 37th National Games is what State netball officials and coaching staff are looking for, hoping also that it will give the game a boost in terms of popularity and participation.
Playing before the home crowd, and having sports minister Govind Gaude’s daughter as a member of the team, Goa’s sports loving people will be following the team’s progress at the multi-discipline sport for more than one reason.
Coach Sandeep Shetkar, who does duty as a Sports Authority Goa (SAG) coach, and who has been brought in to train the men and women teams, has been trying to keep the spirits of the trainees high and has added different elements to the training to make it fun and interesting.
“Yes, we have been trying different things and different approaches to keep them motivated and get them ready for the 37th National Games,” Shetkar told GT Digital after an early morning training session on Benaulim Beach.
“Today was a rest day so we wanted to do something recreational for them as well as keep them fit with some change from the regular training, so we thought of getting them to the beach for a morning jog. We have some recreational games planned for them over here (Benaulim) and then a shower to relax and cool down,” Shetkar added.
Pratish Naik, Secretary of the Goa Netball Association said preparation for the National Games started long back and the boys and girls are eager to have a go at the championship.
“The preparations started in July. Initially we had a day camp for around 45 days and then we went to the residential camp. Right now we are in the residential camp phase and our event will start on October 22 and will end on October 27,” Naik said.
The netball competition will be held at Campal ground and Shetkar and Naik are hoping local fans will come and cheer the teams.
Talking of netball’s history in Goa, Shetkar agreed that the game has failed to take off in terms of fan following, but Goa has consistently reached the last eight. “Netball is not very popular in Goa but we have been playing at the Nationals and always reached the quarterfinals and even the semi-finals. We participated in Kerala and Gujarat and are very excited.”
He, however, was optimistic of doing better and finishing on the podium. “We started practicing quite early and are hoping for a medal this time. The team is shaping up really well and is coping with the situation so we are hoping for medal glory,” Shetkar added.
“The team members are in high spirits as the National Games are being held in Goa for the first time. We have been waiting for long for the dates as they were postponed a few times and finally its happening, so looking forward to it and hoping to do our best,” Shetkar said on a parting note.