Melissa is an international netball coach who has travelled the World coaching the sport she loves. Originally from New Zealand, Melissa has had many netball coaching roles including being Head Coach for the New Zealand Maoris team, Fiji national team and most recently the Welsh National team.
To read her full interview with the FCN, CLICK HERE
Read Part 1 HERE
The one thing I have seen, first hand, is the lack of knowledge and understand of the basic skills of a lot of athletes and this is at the highest level. The other, and more concerning issue I have seen often, is the ‘burn out’ of so many young athletes in our sport. They are playing too much Netball and it is a combination of so many different issues which leads me to think the whole infrastructure is fragmented. They play in Clubs, Teams, Satellite, County, Regional, Super league, NPL and then School netball and this doesn’t include other private netball academics. So with all of these different levels, you have multiple training sessions, fitness trainings and competition on various days in a week and weekend. There is a lot to deal with; travelling time, team training, personal training time, and then on top of this there is school, studies and family commitments. All of this offers the opportunity to be spotted, and then go on to play for national teams like U17/U19/U21s and Senior National Squad. This again adds more trainings, fitness, games and travel. It is often too much for young players, I feel. Statistics show** that we have a high drop off in participation numbers of girls between the ages of 14 to 16 in netball, which, when you see what they are doing, it’s no wonder they are leaving! It’s time we started prioritising and putting the athlete first and thinking about the future of that young person. The role of netball clubs, and many other sports clubs, within this country, in my opinion, needs to be reinvigorated… but that’s a subject for another blog.
So my plan is to work within the school sector by creating this 5 year performance programme, academic first and athletic second, as well as ensuring good solid hard competition, we are creating the next generation of intelligent, fit and strong Netballers.
Moving forward, and looking into the future, I think we should create an England High School and College Competition which could replace the Satellite and County structure. All the schools would play within their regions, 9 of them in total, to find the top four of each region and age group, before coming together to play in a major competition to find the best school, and the best young athletes, in their age groups. The main tournament should host the top two open school teams from each region, similar to the NSL Competition, which would showcase the young, emerging talent of the future.
This competition is where the selectors would go to select the cream of the crop for the national age groups squads. Then the top two teams from this competition would then represent England in a European Schools Tournament and have the opportunity to play against schools from all European countries. This would help make the game visible in Europe, using the school sector, and introduce it, with a high profile, to more European schools, and from a young age and level. Ultimately it would help grow our sport to become identified and exposed throughout Europe. This would be very similar to what is held in the southern hemisphere. It’s called the Trans-Tasman Secondary School Competition and is held biennial and features 10 invited secondary school girls teams from throughout Australasia. Australia, Malaysia, Samoa, Fiji and New Zealand to name a few. An amazing opportunity to watch up and coming talent from different parts of the world that showcase a different flair, style and culture. Imagine school girls having this opportunity to play other international countries at a young age at the highest level, this can only be exciting, powerful and an amazing learning experience.
So I feel my job is much bigger now and the dream has got a long way to go.
**Sport England Active People Survey 2014/2015