IT HAS taken almost three years and a huge amount of development and mentoring work, but the first district squad representing all four netball clubs, Berwickshire, Peebles, Hawick and Earlston, has now been launched.
Until this season, Border District squads have comprised only Peebles players and achieved huge successes lifting Scottish titles at both U15 and U17 age groups. However, rules from the governing body in 2010 meant that within two years District squads had to involve members from more than one club and/or school or would not be permitted to play.
Despite no development help from elsewhere, and with netball not even played in secondary schools across the Borders, Peebles Netball officials were left with no option but to take on the vast Borders netball development task voluntarily themselves.
They started in 2010 with a netball festival, held in Galashiels, for P7s from which they selected promising players and started an intensive programme of coaching.
From that start they set up a competition structure and attracted invaluable sponsorship for this, the highly successful Aitken Turnbull Border League. Gradually four separate netball clubs evolved as volunteers came forward to get involved.
As netball now heads into its third full season Border-wide the group are now celebrating four thriving junior netball clubs (one of them in Berwickshire) each bursting to capacity, with regular fixtures within and outwith the Borders. New umpires have been qualified and new coaches and team managers become involved. Netball has become a core sport for girls across several Borders high schools.
Peebles coach Linda Nicholson and Peebles team manager Lynn Hudson agreed to take on the coaching and team management of the first Border-wide U15 District squad with Karen McKinlay (Berwickshire Netball) taking on the role of District umpire. Following trials a long squad was selected in June. Training and fitness programmes followed, with the short squad finalised in September.
Mrs Nicholson said: “Coaching and managing a squad with players spread so far geographically is a huge operational challenge. Our main difficulty lies with bringing the players together regularly for training, particularly in winter weather.
“However, we are all delighted that all four clubs now have District representation which can only be good for raising standards and aspiration for girls in sport in the region.”
U15 District squads in Scotland come together for three play days through the year before competing in the Scottish District championships in March 2013. Borders have been placed automatically amongst the top seeded Districts. In four warm up matches at the first play day Borders results showed promise.
The next play day is on December 8 in Glasgow where Borders will come up against Fife, Angus and Glasgow again. Inlcuded in the squad are Berwickshire Netball’s Claire Gray and Emily Runciman.