Netball New Zealand has a structured tiered development programme that is devised to carry a budding five-year-old all the way to the Silver Ferns.
The pathway starts off with the 5-7 year age group (Years 1-3) and this stage is known as Fun Ferns which caters for the "beginner’’. Here the emphasis is on basic skill learning and includes movement, passing, co-ordination, modified games, play activities, minor games and fair play.
The next step is the Future Ferns, for the "learner", and takes in the 8-10 year-olds (Years 4-6). Here basic skill development is enhanced with small group games and activities, an understanding of the rules is introduced, modified competition, opportunities for decision-making and a continued emphasis on fair play.
For the 11-12 age group it is on to the "player’’ stage where sport specific development comes into focus. At this stage of the pathway, there is the transition to fully-fledged netball where development opportunities and programmes, such as, camps are introduced. Understanding of the rules and decision-making are further developed while competition and talent identification play a more significant role. There are opportunities for players at this level to compete in representative primary school tournaments.
Ages 13-19 represent the "specialist player’’ phase of the programme pathway where position-specific skills are developed and decision-making extended. The more extensive range of competition at this level includes age-group, regional netball centre, club and school. There is also increased scope here for talent identification and development and leadership opportunities.
For those playing for their schools, there is the opportunity here to compete in the annual regional secondary school championships where three tournaments are held, in the upper North Island, lower North Island and South Island. The top four teams from each of these tournaments go on to compete in the New Zealand Secondary School championships.
Promising school players are chosen for the New Zealand Secondary Schools Development Camp each year and a national team is chosen from this.
Along with their school counterparts, club competition players in this age-group have opportunities to take part in regional development programmes, compete for selection in under-15 and under-17 representative age-group teams and participate in the National Under-17 Age Group Championships.
A step up from this is selection in regional under-19 and under-21 teams to compete at the National Under-19 & Under-21 Age Group Championships.
From these age groups a New Zealand Under-21 squad is chosen each year, from which a team is named to play. Every four years the New Zealand Under-21 team competes at the World Youth Championships. (The next Championships are scheduled for 2013).
Following on from the age-group level is selection at open regional level for the New Zealand National Championships, sponsored by the Lion Foundation.
The New Zealand Championships feature the best players in New Zealand and from here the pathway extends to players being chosen for the New Zealand under-21 Squad and Team, the New Zealand Talent Development Accelerant Group, ANZ Championship Franchise Squads and ultimately at the end of the journey, the Silver Ferns Squad and Team.
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