By Neto Baptiste
Recounting their contributions on both the national and international scales, three of the country’s iconic women in sports recently relived some of their most memorable moments while speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show.
Netball stalwart Shenneth Samuel, along with footballers Georgetta Lewis and Akeilah Hillhouse all spoke of their love for sports and what drew them to that discipline in the first place.
Samuel, who played for the West Indies netball team in the early ‘90s, said a move from a religious school to one closer to home signalled the start of her sporting career.
“I was repeating first form at the Seventh Day Adventist School and I can remember putting a little tear in my report and saying that I wasn’t going back, and before September I told my mom that I wasn’t going back. I went to Pares and I just got involved in sports — netball, football, basketball, cricket — and there is where I started playing my netball and I have absolutely no regrets. I’ve made it to the highest level. I’ve had lots of ups and downs playing my sport but no, there is no regret,” she said.
Samuel has also coached at the national level, having tutored the country’s under-23 squad in the OECS Championships in 2018.
Lewis, who is one of few females to have represented the country in multiple disciplines, said sports has always been part of her daily routine.
“Sports is just a way of life for me and it’s something that I always had a serious drive and motivation in doing. I started with track and I did it competitively at school and also internationally because I did it at the national level. Martial arts, it snuck up on me, it blew up and I was a bit better than I thought I would have been. I travelled the world, went to Australia for the World Games and was a gold medalist and all of that,” the first degrees black belt said.
“Football, for some reason, kind of came later in my sporting career because I didn’t start football until I was a teenager, but it worked out well for me because I was kind of transitioning from track to football,” she added.
Lewis is also one of the few female certified coaches in Antigua who would have served as head coaches for men’s teams in the domestic football competition.
Meanwhile, Hillhouse, who was the first female to play in the football association’s top flight when she featured for SAP in the ‘90s, has been setting trends since then, by also becoming the first female to sit in a head coach position for a men’s team in the FA’s competition.
“I wasn’t drawn to football at first. What happened is that my niece wanted to play and we were still in primary school so I had to tag along and that is how everything started. I remember some afternoons being on the football field and mothers would pass and say, ‘what you doing out here’ and that I should be home cooking and cleaning. But from an early age my mother always taught me to go after what I want, no matter what, and don’t let people discourage me,” she said.
Hillhouse also sits as a vice president within the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) and is the president of the SAP football club.