The England U19 squad completed their tour of Botswana with another accomplished display, defeating the U20 side from the African nation 53-27 in searing heat which topped 30 degrees Celsius on Thursday. This secured the team a 100% record on tour with six victories from six matches played.
This final victory followed on from an eventful day on Wednesday as the team were invited to the British High Commissioners house where they had converted their tennis court into a netball court for the day!
The local deaf school played an exhibition match here after which our U19s were invited to have a go at playing. The rules are exactly the same apart from the umpires use a bright flag instead of a whistle and talking/shouting is not permitted.
The only form of communication can be by gestures. The umpires also often run onto the court to stop play if the flag is not seen and there is an interpreter on hand to sign if the reason for the stoppage is not clear. It also impacts the spectators, they cannot cheer but instead wave both hands in the air to show encouragement.
The High Commissioners Nick Pyle, his wife and children also joined the fun and made the squad feel very welcome at their home. It was even covered by Botswana TV. The athletes commented on how difficult it was to not be able to communicate by using your voice and they had to engage other senses.
Later that day the squad were due to play BOTESSA but unfortunately they were unable to fulfil the fixture at the last moment so the Botswana U20s once again offered to participate in some match play. Despite the last minute change of opposition the U19s kept their composure to seal a 70-22 win.
The day was brought to a close with a traditional Braai BBQ which was provided by the hotel and gave the chance for five athletes to be presented with their first U19 Caps, they were; Rebecca Hoult, Vicki Oyesola, Alice Travis, Francesca Williams and Lydia Walker.
Thursday was the final chance for match play and the Botswana coaches took the chance to join England on the bench as there was some shared knowledge in to how we record stats.
A fantastic learning experience for both nations was clearly taken on the board by our hosts and the home side had implemented some of the coaching points previously discussed between with them from Jan Crabtree and Denise Ellis. The squad are now due to depart today and will return home tomorrow morning.
The squad would like to take the opportunity to thank all of the people that made their trip so enjoyable and possible in the first instance. We would like to thank the Botswana Netball Association, in particular, Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego and Seipei Gaelesiwe, the officials and Liz Broomhead at the INF for support in the run up to the tour.
A special mention also for Aaron Johane at the Oasis Motel, the athletes, the support staff and everybody else that has made the tour possible.
A collection of photos captured from the tour can be found on the official England Netball