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In 2020 Karien Opperman got the opportunity to coach the Northern Cape Diamonds for the Telkom Netball League season, and boy did they surprise, securing victories over the Aloes, Baobabs and the Kingdom Queens to ultimately finish fifth on the log in Division 2. We’re excited for 2021, coach Karien shares her netball knowledge.

How did you get into coaching? Where did your netball journey begin?
I loved sports from a young age. I spent more hours on the sports field than at home. I participated in netball, tennis, athletics, judo, swimming, cycling and cross country. I got my provincial colours in athletics, judo and cross country. However, in High School I had to choose one sport to focus on and I chose athletics. Just after completing school, I attended a coaching course for athletics, so coaching was in me from a young age.

In my second year at university, I decided to get back into netball and played on a social level. After graduating, I worked in the small town of Burgersdorp. There I joined a netball club which formed part of the NEC league. I later moved to Colesberg and joined the Griekwas. Here I played for a few years and working for the Department of Correctional Services led me to be part of the DCS National Netball Team. I went to the SADAC games as part of the DCS National team that went to the Policy World and Fire games in 2007. We then moved to Kimberley in 2009. I loved the sport but was getting too old to play so I got involved in coaching. I completed my Level 1 and 2 coaching courses from 2012 to 2017. I coached the under-21 Northern Cape team from 2012 and also got involved in coaching at a High School and with DCS netball. In 2020 I got the opportunity to coach the TNL Northern Cape Diamonds team.

Your favourite netball memories?
Being part of the World Policy and Fire Games in Australia. Even though it was just for people working in the scurity sector, there were a lot of countries and sporting codes, it was like a mini Olympics.

What were some of your strategies you enforced during the 2020 TNL?
I believe in having a positive attitude. We came in as the underdogs, the unknown; but we believed we can make a difference. All I had to do was to water the seed for the players to grow and believe they are here to change the beliefs people have about the Diamonds.

What are the key things every coach needs to remember when coaching a team?
That each player in your team is unique and different. They all bring something to the table, and you need to lead with positivity and the players will follow. You need to create a save environment for them to excel in the game of netball, but they always need to have fun!

What are the challenges you have faced as a coach?
In the Northern Cape we do not have our own facilities and mostly depend on school facilities for training. However, with COVID-19 many schools don’t want to have people on the school premises as to minimise risk for children to be exposed.

How do you keep your players motivated?
Make sure that your netball players experience some form of success every day in training sessions. I wanted our players to feel excited about the opportunity that we’ll form part of the Telkom Netball League. As their coach I want to know what their dreams are and what excites them. I always remind them and push them to remember their dreams in order for them to reach their goals.

Your advice on mental and physical fitness?
Give the opportunity to committed netball players. Hard work and commitment will go much further than talent!

What does the future of netball look like?
Netball is one of the only female dominated sports in South Africa and I can just hope that we can develop it in a professional capacity.

What advice/inspiration/motivation can you give current and future coaches?
Remember, netball is a team sport, therefore it is not about you as a coach, but more about helping the players to reach their goals. They must be the focus of your plans.

What’s still to do on your netball bucket list?
That one of the players in my team can be recognised or identified to form part of the national talent identification process for NSA.

Thank you for sharing Karien, wishing you the best for all your current and future endeavours.