SERENA KERSTEN presented her vision for the future of Island netball this week, having completed her move back to Jersey.
The former England captain (née Guthrie), who retired from the sport earlier this year, has played a central role in developing a more centralised programme for the Jersey Netball Association, for junior players, coaches and potential umpires.
Titled ‘Youthnets’, the initiative would feature two ten-week programmes a year for budding netballers aged between 11 and 14, including six weeks of coaching and combined matchplay followed by four weeks of competitive matchplay. Girls will be allocated to groups according to their level of ability and a rota system will be adopted to enable coaches to share new ideas with each other.
The new programme will replace the JNA’s youth system for girls under the age of 14.
‘We’ve got a load of kids who are super keen to get involved and want to play and enjoy netball but we’re not really in a position where we can offer this out to everyone,’ Kersten explained.
‘Essentially, what Youthnets is about is offering an equal opportunity for all. It’s about developing and creating a space where everybody can learn – coaches can learn, netballers can learn and we have a real kind of community that will unify netball on the Island.
‘We have to get it right at the bottom before we even start looking at the top and that’s something I’m really passionate about because all these kids will eventually be funnelling up through into a high-performance pathway.’
During the presentation, which was made to Island coaches at Strive Academy, Kersten discussed the potential for more external competition during the year, against teams from the mainland, and outlined the core values of the Youthnets vision. They include creating an open learning environment and a sustainable model to enable young players to move through the grassroots system and league pathway.
‘The club system was not quite working in providing equal opportunity,’ added Kersten. ‘We only have four clubs on the Island that have youth teams, which is nowhere near enough for the level of interest we have. It was becoming a bit of a drain on coaches because they were dealing with huge numbers of kids and it just wasn’t sustainable.’