Player growth has caught the attention of coaches – but it comes at a cost
South Africa’s star players have helped speed up the rise in women’s basketball as the sport heads towards the 2021 Commonwealth Games in England.
Last year the World Basket Federation (WBF) announced that South Africa would be throwing their hat into the ring for their own Commonwealth Games in the city of Birmingham, east of the capital, in 2021.
The country already hosts the prestigious FIBA Africa Champions trophy, and is a winner at every level of the sport – local and international.
And now WBF chiefs, after assessing feedback from players and coaches, have identified South Africa’s greatest strength as the ability to attract a vast majority of new players.
“With South Africa at the forefront of our international investment to grow basketball in South Africa, we saw that players looking for international experience would go straight to the Opens,” Andy Litter, chief executive of WBF, said.
“And we know that, over time, this tendency will only be reduced, but our data suggested that both coaching and exposure to new and challenging events would bring the positive effect of player development.”
So WBF began collecting data on new players in the past five years and then made contact with coaches and players looking to increase their level of experience through the regions they played in.
North and west of the country South Africa has a population of 17 million, with about 350,000 people playing basketball.
The data indicated that a number of new players were playing in lower divisions, but playing in neighbouring countries.
The regions of Advoatal, Nelspruit, Hoschton, Jerbe, Mothemopha, Matsqui and Villiers all got growth and the number of players vastly increased from 30 in 2013 to 912 in 2017.
The southwest region of Jan and Loiza followed up their growth last year with an increase in players from 328 to 861 in 2017.
And with the WBF results showing that more teams are reaching the final stages of competition and more coaches have come forward to learn more about the game, the search for new talent will only be increased.
“When WBF started in 2010, we were starting from scratch, and I think it is a good thing that we are developing and reaching this point. There is a lot more to come,” Omicron’s Janthana Khoza said.
The four-year plan is not just one of increased student numbers and increased budgets and programmes, it’s also a financial boost that the WBF felt would help generate more funds for the growth of basketball in South Africa.
“Every dollar we invest in girls development in South Africa can bring five times more to the local sport,” Litter told South Africa’s Daily Sport in July 2010.
“We look at our strategies from the assumption that there is no magic bullet to growth, we just have to keep at it and keep making more athletes.”