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Netball New Zealand launches new Junior Netball policy

Netball New Zealand’s chief executive Jennie Wyllie says the timing is right to focus on the next generation of netballers being introduced to the game.

A new Junior Netball model continues to be rolled-out across the country with programmes designed to support players, coaches and umpires.

“This age bracket is so important to us,” Wyllie said. “This is where it starts and we wanted to provide something that best meets their needs to develop Netball skills and just as importantly a life-long love of the game.”

Netball New Zealand undertook a comprehensive review of Junior Netball and consultation within the netballing community in 2012, resulting in the development of programmes for Years 1-8 players.

“Our research showed us the delivery of Junior Netball varied considerably across the country. Those involved told us there was strong support for clear guidelines for junior programmes to ensure consistency in delivery,” Wyllie said.

“Fun is definitely the key driver for children in this age group and all of the available research supports that children have more fun and learn more playing small sided games with modified rules.”

READ: Junior Netball Policy

Junior Netball (5-12 year-olds) continues to be an important area for Netball New Zealand with approximately 50 per cent of registered players coming from this age bracket.

The review, which highlighted that adult versions of the game were not appropriate for children, resulted in a number of changes being made to the Junior Model which were trialled in 2013 and implemented in 2014.

Modifications for the Year 1-4 programme included the number of players on court (progressing from 4 versus 4 to 5 versus 5) modified equipment and modified rules such was the success that the focus turned to Year 5-6 players to develop a game format that best suited their needs. The model included a 6 versus 6 format which was piloted in 28 Centres around New Zealand in 2016 involving 5000 players. Games were filmed, there were online surveys and Centre focus groups to review and discuss the modifications.

“We’ve heard from parents and coaches that players liked the increased involvement through the modifications in what has been a confident and supportive environment,” Wyllie said. “This policy was designed to provide clarity for all those involved in Junior Netball – a framework for Centres to be able to provide consistent answers for their members of any queries regarding Junior Netball.”

Next year the focus will be on Year 7-8 players, with the provision of a player development programme alongside Coach and Umpire programmes and resources. A review of the new Junior Netball Model will also take place to measure the impact of the changes.

Wyllie said surveys already taken showed there had been a continued growth in Junior Netball participation numbers (Year 1-2 growing 7% in 2015 and 6% in 2016, Year 3-4 showing increases of 7% in 2015 and 5% in 2016) while 88% of respondents said they were “very satisfied or satisfied” with the programme.