Massage therapist Rushane Sterling says he has been entrusted with one of the most crucial and delicate jobs for Jamaica’s senior netball team, which is to provide therapeutic massages to the Sunshine Girls in preparation for the 2023 Vitality Netball World Cup.

The Vitality Netball World Cup will be the 16th staging of the premier competition in international netball, contested every four years. The tournament will be held from Friday, July 28, to Sunday, August 6, at the International Convention Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Sunshine Girls are now in training ahead of their Pool C opener against Sri Lanka on Friday, and Sterling says his major goal is to induce relaxation, minimise muscle tension, and improve overall well-being for the players.

“What I basically do is get the players ready for the game, so pre-game massage, and then recovery, which is post-game massage, and in between, if there’s any niggles here and there, I have to sort it out for them,” Sterling told the Jamaica Observer.

Head coach Connie Francis makes a point as she overseas training of Sunshine girls at the University of Cape Town on Wednesday ,July 19, 2023. (Photo: Collin Reid courtesy of Courts, Seprod and Sports Development Foundation)

Sterling explained that during a massage session, he examines the player’s particular needs and tailors the therapy accordingly. He applies pressure and manipulates the body’s soft tissues with his hands, fingers, elbows, and sometimes even specialised equipment. This relieves muscle stiffness, increases blood circulation, relieves pain, and promotes relaxation.

“I would say that my most important role with the Sunshine Girls is recovery for these women. Even though netball is a non-contact sport, there are times when players are really banged up and must get ready for a competition the next day or two days later. To satisfy unique requirements and preferences, I must employ a variety of techniques and modalities.

“I just want people to understand how crucial the role of support in medical staff is, whether it is a doctor, a physiotherapist, a massage therapist, or a chiropractor. Most of the times you won’t see us up front because we are always back court but respect the work that we do and trust and believe, it makes a major difference to get the athletes to play at their best,” he said.

Sterling, who obtained a diploma in massage therapy at the GC Foster College for Physical Education and Sports, said that the aim for the Sunshine Girls at the World Cup is to win the gold medal, and so he has to ensure that everything is spot on when it comes to treatment of their bodies.

Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls Vice-Captain Shamera Sterling during a practice session at the University of Cape Town in South Africa on Wednesday. (Photo: Collin Reid courtesy of Courts, Seprod and Sports Development Foundation)

“The first time working with the netball team was in 2018 at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, then I went with them in England at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and then at the CAC Games in El Salvador recently, and then they have brought me here with them as well.

“I mean, obviously, the goal is to win the gold medal because I believe we have a very strong squad. In the Australian league the other day, all seven players, Jamaica can say they have four of the best players for the year. I mean, they are filled with youth and they are filled with experience and I definitely think we can get that gold medal,” Sterling said.

Sterling is encouraging the younger generation to get involved in massage therapy as it can open many doors.

“There are a lot of opportunities opening up right now because athletes, coaches, and managers alike are now seeing and understanding the importance of recovery, massage, or whatever treatment you will need to get an athlete ready to go and do their best in a short period of time.

STERLING…I just want people to understand how crucial the role of support in medical staff is, whether it is a doctor, a physiotherapist, a massage therapist, or a chiropractor

“Coming from high school, I believe it is critical to have a science foundation and to know your body. At GC Foster College, mathematics and English were required, but science is a must, for me; understanding your body, trying to locate muscles and know how they work and what you want to do with them is very important,” Sterling added.

Sterling stated that the facilities in South Africa are in good condition, making his job much easier.

“For the most part, I think it’s very good; they’re relatively new. The South Africans are quite welcoming, whether it is an ice bar or a special treatment room. The hotel where we are staying is quite pleasant; it is a four-star hotel.

“As you know, there are different cultures [represented at the World Cup] and types of food, and so there will be food that we are not accustomed to at times, but they’re doing their best, and the ladies are doing well,” he said.

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