As 2019 commences, it provides us with a good moment to reflect on where we are and what needs to be accomplished to further develop.
We have just completed an extraordinary year with undoubtedly the most extensive international competition calendar we have ever seen. The continental championship cycle saw a record number of national teams competing for this year’s IKF World Korfball Championship. The intensified youth cycle culminated in the first IKF U21 World Korfball Championship, replacing a long-standing series of prior U23 events. In the U19 and U17 categories we have been moving to a more extensive and formal championship cycle reflected in the first official IKF U19 World Korfball Championship to be held this year. On top of it all, the IKF Beach Korfball World Cups have been growing in an effort to establish beach korfball firmly as our second main discipline.
With the youth and beach cycles now firmly grounded, it is a natural next step to fully align our development efforts with our international event cycle. I am fully convinced that grass roots and youth development, along with coaching and refereeing education needs to be related to participation in national and international events. These need not be a traditional weekly league. What is critical however is the opportunity to play; merely practicing to practice is not motivating. Purpose needs to be part of any program. I am personally also very happy that some of the countries that have not qualified for the WKC have been requesting us for additional international events and are now also applying for formalized friendly international matches.
In terms of further development of our national federations, we need to collaborate more to strengthen management and administrative capabilities. As IKF, we have left much of this to the national federations to initiate within their countries, but I believe it is critical for our Olympic ambition to help more of our national federations reach a higher level of national recognition. Better administration, management, and youth development are at the core of this. I plan to raise this as an important issue at our upcoming World Korfball Congress in Durban in August.
The second main strategic choice we need to discuss is the position of beach korfball as a major discipline. How do we envision its growth? What can we learn from other sports that have moved new disciplines to the foreground in an effort to increase its global presence? How does beach korfball fit into our long-term ambitions?
I am sure that amongst our national federations there are further items deemed of importance to our future development. The IKF Council would like to hear from you as we prepare for our next Strategic Cycle. In this cycle, more than ever, we want to consider your input and ideas. Make sure to reach out to me or to our CEO in the next weeks to let your voice be heard.
For now, at the beginning of this important year, I would like to wish all of you and your loved ones a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2019.