Across the country, excellent work is constantly underway to help our young players be the best that they can be and maximise their talents on the court. The Regional Performance Centre (RPC) programme is one step in that journey. RPCs are designed to bring together talented junior players with the specific focus of individual player development rather than competition. RPC dates are dotted around the calendar from October to May and players can dip in and out of the programme depending on their progress.
How does this model work on the ground though, and can it be used to really progress areas of the game that struggle in a more competitive setting? In the South region, their programme is going from strength to strength and providing a large number of girls with a way to enjoy the sport and take their game to the next level.
“History told us within the South Region, girls’ basketball has not been highly supported. It was obvious there was a need for action,” said Frank Norton-Hill, Coordinator for the South Region’s RPC programme. “With everything we’ve done, we now enjoy over 60 girls attending the RPCs. This also includes around 15 under 11 players who have also joined the programme.”
The South region, like others, isn’t without its own unique set of barriers to overcome. There is a sporadic provision of National League teams at certain age groups for girls across the region. Equally, coming into contact with girls interested in the sport was often difficult.
“We had to be proactive. We trialled open days in each county within the region, even if there were no established teams there. We attended CVL games where we knew the odd girl might be playing on a boys’ team. That way we had an opportunity to speak to parents and offer their daughter a wider outlook on her basketball future,” continued Norton-Hill.
It isn’t just the players that have seen the benefit of an RPC programme that is definitely on an upwards trend. “Traditionally, having 1 or two coaches at an RPC was the norm. This year we have attracted 9 coaches to the programme,” announced Norton-Hill happily. “We have a great mix. Our Head and Assistant coaches are highly experienced and comfortable at all age groups. We added two or three coaches with good backgrounds who are involved at the National League level. The remainder are still players primarily but are beginning their development as coaches by working with the younger age groups. The added bonus is that 6 coaches are female and that bodes well for the future.”
The general success of the programme is also starting to show at a higher level. A handful of players have been selected from the region to attend Basketball England camps in the last few years, suggesting girls in the area are close to breaking through at the next level.
With so much good news, what is next for Norton-Hill and the RPC programme in the South? “More work needs to be done to ensure that girls’ teams are created within the region. This will need the cooperation of existing National League and CVL clubs working together. The same applies to schools, who may only have a few girls interested in the sport,” he said.
By uniting National League clubs, CVL teams and the education network within the area, the South region hopes to continue improving their RPC programme. Considering the steps they have already taken, it sounds like the sky is the limit!