Hitting the netball courts on a Saturday morning is a tradition shared by many kiwi whānau. From the early rises and hustle to get out the door, to the post game team chants signalling a game well played, this sport has been a unifying force bonding communities across generations.

For years Māori and Pasifika players have dominated the courts showcasing their talent and aptitude in the game of netball. They represent their regions in national competitions and have risen to international acclaim as Silver Ferns. When it comes to the people coaching in the higher echelons of the sport, however, there’s a sizeable drop in numbers. Healthy Families Waitākere Systems Innovator, Ruta Tonumaivao explains.

“To make the jump from community coach to performance coaching, you must complete an accreditation programme run by Netball New Zealand. The insights we’ve gathered from community coaches have highlighted the need for experienced Māori and Pasifika facilitators, and to introduce culturally appropriate methodologies into the programme”.

Healthy Families Waitākere has partnered with Netball Northern Zone and Netball New Zealand to trial a new approach using te ao Māori principles in the accreditation programme.

“One of the biggest changes we’ve made to the programme has been to explore a tuakana-teina approach, which focuses on building solid connections within the programme and drawing on the coaches’ skills and experience to support and mentor each other”, says Tonumaivao.

Te ao Māori principles such as whakawhanaungatanga, manaakitanga, and practising karakia and mihimihi have also been woven into the programme to nurture a space for open, honest communication. Netball Northern Zone Coach Lead, Tania Heap explains.

“Implementing whakawhanaungatanga helped to create a sense of belonging and a safe space to share experiences and work together. In doing so, it strengthened the resolve of each member of the roopu.”

“The element of care and authenticity supported the coaches to thrive”, adds Leigh Gibbs, Community Coaching Manager Netball New Zealand.

The 2023 cohort, consisting of ten community coaches, successfully completed the programme in eleven months marking an unprecedented achievement for the programme. In contrast, the previous pathway required coaches to invest two years to reach the same milestone.

“The programme has been transformative, we’ve never seen anything like it”, says Rob Wright, High Performance Coach Lead Netball Northern Zone.

In an exciting development, the graduates of the programme have received an invitation to a special presentation at the first Northern Mystics home game in May 2024. The presentation marks a pivotal moment of transition, showcasing the programme’s commitment to nurturing Māori and Pasifika talent and sustaining a culture of excellence.

“Even though they are moving on from this programme, the graduates will assume the role of tuakana, offering guidance and mentorship to the incoming group of aspiring coaches. They’re paving the way, not just for themselves but for all Māori and Pasifika coaches who want to enter this profession”, says Tonumaivao.