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One On One
Margaret enjoying netball to the fullest
Thirty-two-year-old Margaret Byfield-Lawrence has been playing netball for so long, she can't remember when she started. All she remembers is starting because she liked the game and after more than 20 years she still does.
Playing since primary school, Byfield has represented Camperdown High and Rollington Town netball team, her first club. She has since been playing with Jamalco for the past six years.
The gifted player is not only an ace shooter, but a mother of four and an account administrator at General Accident. The dark-complexioned, stout athlete with a genuine smile and affable personality speaks proudly of her daughter and three sons, the youngest of whom will be four in September.
On the court, she's easy to spot. She's the lady in the goal circle putting every ball in the net. For her, netball is now more of a hobby as she says she no longer has the time to represent Jamaica.
One on One caught up with the netballer at her office on Monday in an effort to learn more about the shooter.
How did you get started in netball?
To be honest I don't know because netball to me is just natural talent. Nobody taught me how to play, it just happened. I used to do track and field first and then I just fell in love with netball. I played bare-footed, getting burns on the foot bottom and all that.
Why the switch from track and field to netball?
Track and field is really hard and I hate running. That's the reason for the switch.
What position do you play?
"When I just started out I played defence. Then one day my Rollington Town coach tried me out at goal attack. And from there I started as goal attack/goal shoot.
Which position do you prefer?
I like shooting. It doesn't really matter because its not like I'm playing the goal shooter as a standing shooter. The same thing as the goal attack, the role she plays is the same role I play, because I'm not really a standing shooter.
You have represented Jamaica in netball both locally and overseas - at what levels and in which championships?
At the senior level. I went to Commonwealth Games in 1998, I started with Caribbean Championships all the way back in 1996. I've been to three Championships (Caribbean) and just one local international tri-series back here in Jamaica.
Which teams do you currently play for?
In the hotel league for Sandals, General Accident as the Business Touse team and Jamalco as the club team. This year I made a switch to Grand Lido Braco.
You have been plagued with injuries throughout your career. Tell us something about your injuries.
I have many injuries. I have back injuries, I have ankle injuries. It's just the other day I feel my knee. From1993 we were playing Australia, I remember, that's where my back injury started. From that day 'till now we can't even find a problem. Been to many therapists, physios for treatment, still they can't find the problem. Sometimes they say its muscular spasms, but it's deeper than that I think. (The ankles) Real bad, they're all mashed up, they all sprained.
You had a stroke earlier this year, tell me about that.
Basically I woke up in the morning, talking to my husband, went to the bathroom, came back. We were there talking then for moments words wouldn't just come out my mouth. I was like beckoning unto him and he was like 'what happen'? And I was still beckoning he said 'what happen', but I couldn't talk. I went and got a pencil to write, but there was nothing. I couldn't write either. They rushed me to the hospital, I was frightened at that moment, but then I was determined and saying this can't be happening to me. When I reached the hospital and they started asking me all kinds of questions the speech came back little by little. The doctor asked me to write which I did. They said it was a mild stroke.
For how long did you stop playing netball?
For a week because I was on nine days, he (the doctor) gave me nine days rest and I didn't get to play in the club championships divisional league.
You're a mother, you work full-time and play netball for three different teams. How do you balance everything?
"Everything has a season. When business house is in, club league is on break. When hotel league starts they have to see our fixtures to see when to come down and when to schedule the matches for us to play. So it's basically on a Saturday really when we don't have club league to play. And balancing family, now this is where the grandmother steps in or the daddy.
You've been playing netball for about two decades yet you still have an appetite for it. Why is that?
It's just the love of the game. I love netball. All when me a 'mash-up' me love netball. M' caan stop play it. Everyday I tell myself I'm going stop. When I say to my friends me caan bother with netball this is my last year, they say, 'yes Maggie oh right, see you next year'. It's just the love of the game really.
Did having children at a young age affect your netball career?
Yes, in some aspects. It stopped me from going to the World Championships and a few Test matches between Australia and Jamaica.
If you could, would you have done it differently?
No. I tell myself when I reach 30 I won't be having any more. That's my time. That's time for me and them to grow. I just look on it, it's life and it must go on. I didn't get the opportunity but I guess somebody did and nothing happens without a reason. Sometimes yes, when you're back down in memory lane and you just reminisce, but such is life. I think I had great times in all the championships I've been to. When I'm out there I know I'm representing my country and I'm doing my best.
Are there any disappointments with your netball career?
None. No disappointments at all. I'm still there locally, maybe not internationally, and I'm giving a show. I know people love to see me play. I give my fans what they want to see, same old Maggie, never change, never will change because as I said before netball is raw talent to me. Nobody taught me the game but people helped me to excel more with my skill.
Do you think there is anything that needs to be changed in our netball programme?
They can't really change anything because it all depends on the type of material they have. Maybe its not a Maggie, maybe it's not a Connie (Francis) or an OB (Oberon Pitterson). But whatever they have now they just have to work on it. Everybody is not going to be the same, not everyday you're going to find good skill so whatever you have now they, just have to work on it.
Do you think players today are less skilled?
Yeah. Back in my days when I was a kid you want to see skills. Janet Johnson, Valerie Blake and Patricia McDonald, very tall but yet still she uses her height. Those ladies were skilful ladies. We don't have skill now. Netball now is not like netball back in the day, people show off their skill, more exciting. Netball today is too aggressive. I think if people have less aggression then it will be a beautiful game again.
What can be done to help the development of netball in Jamaica?
Start to develop the young ones. We go around in Prep. schools, Primary schools and see the talent there then we can start there. We need to get that programme going, ask parents if they will send out their kids for that programme and start it from a young age. When they reach at teenage level, under 21, under 16, national team then we don't have so much work to do because then you'll have the turnovers. Back in my days it was like that.
Do you think enough attention is given to netball in comparison to other sports?
These girls have been playing and keeping the flag going for many years and always in the top three, always. We need more businesses to get involved in the programme even if not financially.
- Carolyn Johnson