den Dekker enjoys helping young talent shine

CoEpic3If Australia wins gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games or the 2019 Netball World Cup, Centre of Excellence coach Michelle den Dekker will be one of the proudest people in the country.

The Diamonds’ team for those two major events could potentially contain several athletes who were part of the inaugural intake at the Centre of Excellence this year, and they’ve been guided by some of the country’s best coaches about what it takes to succeed at international level in the green and gold.

For den Dekker, the former Australian captain and current assistant coach of the Diamonds, the chance to work with some of the country’s emerging young talent over an eight-week period was a great opportunity and she’s is already looking forward to expanding the program in 2015.

“For me it’s a very small step in what we hope to see the Centre of Excellence deliver over the next six to eight years because, ultimately, it’s about preparing our next lot of athletes for the Diamonds and to be able to win milestone events,” den Dekker said.

_MCA4363Li“I love seeing not only the technical expertise coming through but the holistic way we’re preparing our athletes.”

Netball Australia’s Head of High Performance Andrew Collins praised everyone involved with the Centre of Excellence for what was delivered in the first year.

“It was an ambitious program set out by Netball Australia to undertake the Centre of Excellence in the same year as the Commonwealth Games. It certainly put enormous pressure on our coaching and logistics staff, but they stepped up and delivered a world-class program.

“I want to particularly mention the efforts of Michelle den Dekker in leading the program and bringing in some of the Australia’s leading coaching specialist to provide direction to our athletes.”

Importantly, the athletes involved embraced the ideology of what the Centre of Excellence aims to accomplish.

“We want our team environment to be really proactive about being the best high performance program in the world and that’s started to come through with these athletes,” den Dekker said.

“I felt they were very positive, they embraced the culture of what we want from a national perspective and it showed they have to work really hard off the court in their strength and conditioning to be physically conditioned enough to meet the demands of international sport.”

CoEpic1The two-week trip to South Africa at the end of the program was a highlight for everyone involved, especially taking part in a coaching clinic for 30 schoolgirls in Potchefstroom.

“International experience is two-fold,” den Dekker said.

“We’re very privileged in our environment here so it’s great for our athletes to work in different cultural environments, experience international umpires, foreign crowds and long-haul travel.

“But it’s also about us, as the Centre of Excellence, giving back to the world community and netball being a vehicle to unite the world and children with sport. That experience as part of UNICEF was amazing.”

Both Collins and den Dekker are impressed by the quality of the athletes coming through the pathway system.

“There is some great work been done within our state programs and, if we can continue to support and add value to the work they are doing, I am sure in a short period of time we will see athletes emerging from the Centre of Excellence into our national team,” Collins said.

“We recognise that athlete development and athlete progression are critical if we are to remain the world’s number one netball team and the excellent people at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra certainly help in delivering that.”