Net­ball up­starts have stars in their eyes

CityPress - - Sport -

Be­ing 1.92m tall might be a bit tricky for the av­er­age South African girl, but for 17year-old Khadi­jan Dem­bele from Soweto, her height ad­van­tage might just help to make her dream of play­ing net­ball for South Africa come true.

Com­ing from a fam­ily that re­ally isn’t into sport, Dem­bele says she eats, sleeps and dreams play­ing her beloved sport at the high­est level.

Dem­bele was one of 80 girls who were in­vited to take part in a week-long train­ing camp in Pre­to­ria or­gan­ised by Net­ball SA last week to iden­tify the next gen­er­a­tion of in­ter­na­tional play­ers.

Of the 80 play­ers aged be­tween 16 and 20 who were in­vited, 66 turned up – com­plete with stars in their eyes and hopes of catch­ing the eye of the se­lec­tors.

With the emer­gence of spon­sored com­pe­ti­tions such as the Bru­tal Fruit Net­ball Premier League, the in­creas­ing broad­casts of live net­ball and cov­er­age in the main­stream me­dia, more young women are seek­ing to take their par­tic­i­pa­tion in net­ball to the next level.

With more than 2 mil­lion ac­tive par­tic­i­pants, net­ball is the largest women’s sport in the coun­try.

“There’s a lot of com­pe­ti­tion here with the girls,” said Dem­bele on the side­lines of the camp, “but I’m go­ing to make ev­ery mo­ment count. Be­cause I’m pas­sion­ate about the sport, I be­lieve I will be the first pro­fes­sional sportswoman in my fam­ily,” she added.

The camp was over­seen by SA Un­der-21 and Net­ball Premier League coach Dorette Baden­horst, as­sisted by the Spar Proteas’ Maryka Holtzhausen, Phumza Maweni, Lenize Pot­gi­eter and Erin Burger – as well as for­mer Eastern Cape Aloes goal shooter Du­misani Chauke.

Some of the girls had never been ex­posed to such in­ten­sity and soon re­alised this was a se­ri­ous busi­ness. After four in­tense 12-hour days in the Pre­to­ria heat, North West Flames head coach Baden­horst and her as­sis­tants were more than im­pressed with the level of tal­ent and com­mit­ment the girls dis­played.

“It’s great work­ing with these girls be­cause they’re tak­ing it with both hands and im­prov­ing ev­ery day,” said Baden­horst. “I’m a ba­sics coach and I be­lieve in the ba­sics. You can’t ex­pect play­ers to per­form and ex­pect cer­tain things if you don’t coach them – that, and cer­tain skills.

“I was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with the flex­i­bil­ity of play­ers to take on var­i­ous po­si­tions.”

While a fi­nal squad would not be se­lected at the camp, up for grabs was the chance to cre­ate a last­ing im­pres­sion for a spot in the team for the 2017 Youth Cham­pi­onships in Botswana.

Not to men­tion the po­ten­tial of a spot in one of the Bru­tal Fruit Net­ball Premier League fran­chises, and per­haps even con­sid­er­a­tion for the Proteas.

Dreams aside, it was im­por­tant for the girls to learn ex­actly how much work would have to go into mak­ing it to in­ter­na­tional level.

Reach­ing the pin­na­cle, Chauke ad­vised, would take grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

“It takes a lot to get to the top; it takes even more to stay there: hard work, com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion. I hope that, over this week, the girls will learn the im­por­tance of self-dis­ci­pline and proper time man­age­ment.”

Melo­dine Ja­cobs, a 19-year-old from Port El­iz­a­beth, started her jour­ney at pro­vin­cial level.

Her en­thu­si­asm res­onated on the courts and she later re­vealed that, whether she made the camp’s Net­ball SA team or not, she planned on pur­su­ing her ul­ti­mate dream of a spot in the Proteas by what­ever course nec­es­sary.

“I would re­ally like to make it into the na­tional squad, but I know I have to work hard – and even if they don’t se­lect me, I won’t give up on the sport be­cause I want to ap­ply ev­ery­thing I was taught here,” said Ja­cobs.

Some, such as 20-year-old Lourine van Heer­den from Jo­han­nes­burg, lit­er­ally fought through pain to at­tend the camp.

“I had an an­kle re­con­struc­tion in Fe­bru­ary, and it’s been re­ally tough on me to get back in form.

“But what I will trea­sure from the camp is the friend­ships I’ve built here; I will for­ever cher­ish them and con­tinue con­tribut­ing to net­ball.”

cor­re­spon­dent

– Own

PHOTO: MIXONO ME­DIA

TAL­ENT

Play­ers pose dur­ing the net­ball train­ing camp

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