Trinidad Express / Disciplined, Focused and Committed. These are the watchwords of Trinidad and Tobago’s European-based star netball shoot Kalifa Mc Collin.
Speaking with the Express recently, Mc Collin, who has been plying her trade with great success with Wales franchise Celtic Dragons in the Vitality Netball Super League in Britain, said: “I was born into the sport as both my parents were either playing or coaching at various points in their lives.”
And having ventured on a journey that began at Soul City Netball Club, managed by her parents Heston and Althea Mc Collin, the versatile goal attack/goal shoot has progressed along a path that can only be described as destiny.
“I came through the ranks at the under-16 and under-21 levels before making my national senior debut at the age of 17. At that time, I was the youngest player on the team and I felt pressured by the older players as they were quite competitive. However, Janelle Barker was very supportive and we were able to establish a good chemistry and relationship.”
Mc Collin, who made her international debut at the Netball World Youth Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2013, followed it up with her appearance at the Commonwealth Games a year later, also in Glasgow, before competing at the Netball World Cup in Australia in 2015.
“I always had the dream of playing with a national team while growing up, and there were times my mother would say I’m stubborn because I didn’t take some of her advice but at the end of the day I owe my parents a lot for who I’ve turned out to be because now I’m playing professionally in London.”
Ace national goal-attack Kalifa Mc Collin during the 2017 Vitality Netball Super League season with Celtic Dragons. Making the transition from Trinidad to London, she said, was a walk in the park.
“It was easy for me to adapt to the culture in England because when I went there I already had a good work ethic. I did extra training on my own and approached training sessions and matches with the mindset that I’m always going to give 100 per cent.
“And because of that I was able to achieve all my goals in my first season, one of which was to score 100 per cent in a game, and I surpassed that by accomplishing it in three matches.
“I was also selected as a ‘Gilbert Girl’ (brand ambassador), which was huge because Gilbert is the leading supplier of netball products worldwide in terms of shoes, clothing and netballs, and now I’m endorsing their shoes.”
Mc Collin, who was voted Dragons’ “Player-of-the-Season”, said a lot of good things came out of her first professional season. “I wasn’t expecting offers from other teams but before the season was over the offers came pouring in.”
While turning down opportunities to move to Australia, Mc Collin has accepted the offer to represent Hertfordshire Mavericks in the 2018 season.
“I’m looking forward to playing with my new team. It has some of England’s national players as well as some who would have played in New Zealand, so I’m looking forward to setting more goals and accomplishing them. I also want to concentrate a bit on school and finish my degree in sports psychology.”
Kalifa Mc Collin is now the proud face of Gilbert Netball, the leading supplier of netball shoes, apparel and balls. Turning her attention back to home, Mc Collin addressed some of T&T’s shortcomings.
“England has a better structure as they have a pathway with the different age groups coming through a system that feeds their national teams. We basically have one group to depend on for national players.
“Training is more rigid and they approach the sport scientifically by conducting continuous assessments to identify what each player lacks and then addresses it. Additionally, the competitive environment helps to keep players honest and motivates them to keep working hard every day.
“At home we’re hampered by a shortage of qualified coaches, which is not the case in England. I’ve completed my Level 2 coaching certificate and I’m looking forward to doing Level 3 as it is my desire to be a player/coach.
Mc Collin said her experience at under-16 and under-21 was that the selection policy was fair, but at senior level it was totally different. “At the senior level selection boils down to the coach’s decision and you have to go along with it. This poses a challenge because there are people with different views and opinions.”
She believes the national senior netball team lacks discipline. “There should be guidelines as to what it takes to be a national player because I don’t believe that message has been handed down.”
Describing her life thus far as “Blessed by God”, Mc Collin said without him she would not be the person she is today. “Sometimes I tend to forget my age because of the numerous positive things that have happened in my life,” said the 22-year-old.
And in imparting some advice to aspiring youngsters, she said: “Don’t give up and do you. Ignore the negative comments because they will come, rather, stay focused and do you by setting goals and working towards achieving them.”
Mc Collin, who earned a number of “Player-of-the-Match” awards, finished her first season with 503 goals from 539 attempts for an impressive 93.3 per cent shooting average. Due to depart for England within the week, Mc Collin is well on her way in being the ‘Netball Jewel of the Caribbean.’