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Thursday 17 March 2011 | Published in Regional


New Zealand netball coach Donna Blazey has been impressed with the natural talent of Cook Islands netballers while on a whirlwind 4-day visit to Rarotonga.

Blazey is the high performance coaching advisor for new Cook Islands national netball head coach Marg Foster.

While on the island, Blazey ran a number of coaching sessions for junior and senior players.

“I just loved their energy,” says Blazey of the 40-plus 6 to 12-year-old netballers that made the most of the training sessions.

The junior training sessions had a huge emphasis on putting the enjoyment back into netball for grassroots players.

The youngsters played fun games to boost their self esteem, team work exercises as to improve important listening skills and of course netball skills.

After 4 days of coaching Cook Islands players, Blazey says that one thing lacking among local players is polished basic skills.

“What I’ve been mostly doing is perfecting basic skills – it’s not a different style of netball and players need to have perfected basic skills before you can have a strong structure,” says Blazey.

“There’s definitely a lot of talent here and I believe if the girls dedicate themselves they can take on the majority of teams out there.”

Lack of dedication is another issue that Blazey has seen among Cook Islands players and she emphasises to local players that to be the best, be it at club level or on the international stage, they must follow the three Ds – determination, dedication and discipline.

Blazey says that one important thing she has been getting local players thinking about is the fact that compared to most regional and international teams – the Cook Islands are relatively short. “But that doesn’t mean they are disadvantaged at all – it just means that players need to have a good range of skills that they can draw from when it comes to major games.”

Before flying back to New Zealand on Wednesday night, Blazey spent time at the Telecom Sports Arena with players from the Takuvaine netball club.

“I was really impressed with how quickly they picked up skills,” she says.

“To see that much improvement in one session is really impressive.”

Another issue that Blazey identified is the lack of high calibre coaches in Rarotonga and this is another area Blazey hopes to work on.

Blazey will return to the island in three weeks when she will run more in depth training sessions, including sessions for coaches.

She will also help with the selection of the national netball team who will prepare for the Pacific Series in Papua New Guinea in June.

“I so can’t wait to help netball in the Cook Islands,” says Blazey.

“There’s so much untapped talent here and with the right direction – the Cooks will be a real force to reckon with in the netball world.”