Netball wants more locals in national team

Netball Samoa is beginning an accelerant programme to improve locally-based players with an eye to getting them worthy of selection to top high-performance teams.

Samoa's national team for the Netball World Cup in July was made up entirely of players based overseas, and coach, Frances Solia, said the trial process towards picking that squad showed where the locals were lacking.

“When all the overseas girls came, physically they were stronger, fitter, because they have all the resources in their countries," she said.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to select local players for pinnacle events like Under-21s, and in particular the national team.

“The whole purpose of this initiative is really to try and prepare the local girls for when the [next] World Cup trial occurs, and try to get them in the best physical and mental shape."

That next World Cup in South Africa in 2023 is far enough away to build from a foundational level.

“We’re not looking for superstars yet, we’re looking for potential, real potential to be a representative at the next World Cup," Solia said.

“It’s four years in the making, so it gives them time, gives us time."

Solia, who has coached Samoa since 2017, said through the programme Netball Samoa are trying to provide as much as possible the things taken for granted and more available in other countries like personal training and nutritional advice.

“So that when they turn up to the trials they’ll be in much better shape, both physically and in the mind, to take on those that are based overseas," she said.

The former national team captain said the local players are every bit as talented as their overseas counterparts - it's about giving them the chance to show it.

Solia is developing the skills and drills aspects of the programme, while New Zealand Army Staff Sergeant Davey Forbes is responsible for the strength and conditioning side.

Staff Sergeant Forbes was the trainer for Samoa's rugby sevens and netball teams back at the 2010 Commonwealth Games during Solia's playing days.

“He was definitely the toughest trainer I’d ever come across in my life, and I always thought to myself, if I’m going to get a trainer, this is the guy that I want to bring in to the environment when I go into coaching," Solia said.

She said she briefed Forbes on what to expect from the local players, “and how much education we need to be doing to help them."

The pair, who are both based in New Zealand, will visit periodically for periods of high-intesity training from the start of the programme in mid-January.

“The question was, what are we gonna do when we come off-island, come back to New Zealand," Solia said.

“What we need to make this work is the support of our clubs."

They all sat down for a conference call with Solia and Forbes to look over the calendar for the programme, and how they can help maintain and manage it.

“I sent them the performance standards at that particular level we’re looking at, and really we are just looking at, at this point in time, learning to train," Solia said.

“We had lots of conversation with the coaches and they asked a lot of good questions."

While nothing is set in stone, the clubs will select around 20 players that they think are ready to join the programme.

Solia said the programme will be full on, with a commitment of some two to two-and-a-half hours per day required at the least:

“They’re training probably twice a day from Monday to Friday."

The coach acknowledges that such a commitment could conflict with traditional elements of the Samoan culture and what is required of young women by their families.

But she said this is the level of training that is required for one to succeed, and in Australia and New Zealand it's normal.

“Because it’s such an intense programme, it does require quite a bit of commitment, and it’s just a change of mindset as well," Solia said.

“For our local girls to front up and be competitive against our overseas players, changes need to be made."

She said back in the day national teams used to be split evenly between local and overseas players, and it would be good for Samoa to get back there.

“There’s a lot of hard work that needs to be done, and this is the start of it," Solia said.

“It’s not meant to be easy."

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