Youth netball too results-driven, says Aitken
Outgoing national netball coach Ruth Aitken tells LIM SAY HENG schools coaches must factor in player development
How difficult was it to make the decision to return home?
AITKEN: It was tough, and the reality is even harder in some ways... It took ages.
A huge part of my heart is here but my family has to come first. I told the girls that if I could bring Singapore closer to New Zealand, we could do both.
What are you most proud of in your three years as national coach and technical director?
The success that we had in the 2014 Asian Championship and the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games... they will sit with me alongside my world championships and Commonwealth Games (achievements).
But it's also the development of players over the years, such as Char (Charmaine Soh) and Kimberly (Lim).
We want to build the depth of the national squad and we are starting to develop the numbers, even if it is a huge commitment.
I feel that we have built such a solid national programme, and it was important that I could leave it in a healthy state. But there's still a lot to be done in terms of development, especially in terms of getting them more experience.
We are trying all the time to expand our age-group programmes and we may have some changes next year.
What aspects of grassroots development should be improved?
It's about coaches growing the all-round skills of our taller players so that they can adapt internationally.
For example, a tall shooter may just need to hold her position near the post and lob the shot, but they may come up against international defenders who are as tall and can jump.
It is still a work in progress and it's very hard. School coaches need to have one eye on the success of the player in the long term.
It is hard, when you have national rounds for primary and secondary schools; they are great to have but they become about winning instead of long-term athlete development.
You guided the team to a best-ever world ranking of 15th, but previously said that breaking the top 10 would be tough. You still believe that?
I think it is a real challenge. It probably needs to come with the new person and I think it's probably quite timely actually, that there will be a fresh pair of eyes looking at things.
I still think it's a bridge too far at the moment.
I do think the way Netball Singapore is trying to grow the strength of netball in Asia is really important because for us to take another step forward in terms of semi-professionalism, we need to not be in isolation.
I'd like to think that one of the benefits of me going back to New Zealand is a flow of information or the ability of some of our players or coaches to come down and vice-versa.
We are looking at some training programmes in Australia or New Zealand for some of our Under-21 players, and we are just starting to work with the NYSI (National Youth Sports Institute).
What is lacking in the local game?
I think it's a bigger training pool of players and the lack of diversity in terms of the physical make-up of our players.
Our girls are still very slight by international standards, and light in weight, too. We would be lucky to have an average height of 1.70m, where in New Zealand the average is probably 1.78m.