KINGSTON — "Wherever I am, whatever I am and whatever I’m involved in, I should make a difference. If I haven't made a difference, then I ought not to have been there."
Those were the words of Molly May Rhone, Sports Administrator, who will receive the Order of Jamaica (O.J.), the fourth highest Jamaican honour, at this year’s National Honours and Awards ceremony on National Heroes Day, Monday, October 17 at King’s House.
Mrs. Rhone explains that she feels honoured to have been selected for a third national award for her contribution to sports administration, locally and overseas. She received the Order of Distinction/officer class (O.D.) in 1999 and the Order of Distinction/commander class in 2007. In between, she also won the Gleaner Honour Award in 2003.
She adds that she is elated about these awards not just for herself, but for the sport of netball and for her country, as well.
Born in Manchester, to Violet and Adolfus Dacosta, she is the widow of the late Izette Rhone, an outstanding Jamaican golfer. Their union produced two boys.
She professes that she is a firm believer in God and also that her decisions in life are always guided by her Christian principles. In addition, she notes that she is indebted to her parents, her high school principal, Reverend Davidson, as well as her high school coach and mentor, Dr. Barbara Jones, for the indelible impact that they had on her life.
Mrs. Rhone had a great passion for sports, and, to her the dearest of them all was netball. She began playing netball as a child, when she started to attend the Knox Community College in Manchester.
"By age 13, I was playing on the senior team at school,” she says as she recalled her rapid progress in her early years of playing the sport.
While at Knox, she was also an outstanding all round track and field athlete doing the 100 yards, 220 yards, long jump and high jump and anchored the school’s relay team.
She was champion girl at Knox for six consecutive years. Her exploits on the track brought her to the attention of the school's netball coach.
"I knew I wanted to play for Jamaica and I trained very hard,” she says. Before she left for Canada, she represented Jamaica in a world tournament as a member of the senior team, and also participated in many other games as a member of the Under-21 (U-21), Under-23 (-23) and the Jamaica Reserves teams.
Molly Rhone received her tertiary education at the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Canada, where she received a diploma in 1969 for studies in Information Technology (IT). She excelled in academics in Canada, as she played for and captained the Ontario and Canada teams.
On her return to Jamaica, she was employed as Director of IT at the Air Jamaica. She emphasizes that her training in IT at Ryerson, and her appointment at the airline, propelled her to continue her studies which she did through International Business Machines (IBM), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and NCR courses.
Her 21 years at Air Jamaica was remarkable as, under her management, there were many infrastructural and systematic changes that improved the quality of operations at the airline.
"At first you had people doing things manually, but when it is automated, it just becomes much easier,” she says.
She played netball for Air Jamaica in the Business House competition, as well as inter-airline competitions, and was vice captain for the Jamaican team to the world tournament in New Zealand in 1975.
It was not her goal to become a sports administrator but, after being out of the game for some time, she was invited to run for the vice presidency of the Jamaica Netball Association (JNA) in 1991. She was elected Vice President, and in 1993 she was elected President.
Mrs. Rhone highlighted that it was very challenging, at first. However, she was determined to make a change and a remarkable difference during her tenure at the JNA. This she did by revamping the organization, ensuring that all levels of administration were in place and that all the equipment required were added.
After the restructuring that occurred under her leadership, the JNA began its quest to standardise its activities.
Mrs. Rhone has indicated that a core part of the association's work, at the time, was to ensure that discipline was maintained and, as such, the team had to look as professional during training as they did while playing in competitions.
"It was the highlight of my career,” she says, as she recalled the World Championship hosted by Jamaica in 2003.
"I think we set the bar by which all other championships were run," she notes.
Interestingly, it was after the Championship in 2003 that she was elected President of the International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA), becoming the first Jamaican female to head an international sports organization.
Mrs. Rhone remarks that she had the opportunity to influence the restructuring of the administration of the IFNA, highlighting that, “you cannot move and be taken seriously without a proper structure and a strategic business plan."
Since becoming President of IFNA, she has shown a keen interest in community development, through the empowerment of women. As such, the international association has embarked on community projects namely “Goal” and the “Safaris”, which are being implemented in India and in Africa, respectively.
She notes that coaches and umpires have been assigned to both countries, and have been working with individuals who have had no prior experience in the sport.
Mrs. Rhone points out that IFNA has been given three awards for projects that they have implemented in India and Africa. These are the Peace in Sports, Sports in the City and Beyond Sports awards.
In addition to heading IFNA, she is also a board member of the International University of the Caribbean (IUC), Management Control Systems and the Jamaican National Olympic Committee.
It is also her vision and objective to continue implementing strategies and programmes to enhance the development of sports after serving at IFNA.
"There is no shortcut to success!” is her advice to Jamaica’s young women who may be aspiring to participate in sports and to progress to the same levels as she has done.
"You have to have a vision, aim high, set your goals and work towards them,” she concludes.
By: Toni-Ann Russell, JIS PRO