(by Jan Fransoo – IKF President) “The Youth is our Future” is not only of general importance, but in particular to the future of korfball.
My predecessors have been always focused on youth as a source of growth. The first international competition for national teams was the European Youth Championship, then for U23 athletes. Many may not know that the first IKF World Korfball Championship in 1978 was also a youth championship and only open to U23 athletes.
In Europe, a longer tradition of youth competitions has existed, in particularly fueled by the KNKV hosting invitational World Cups U23 (held for many years in Apeldoorn), U19 (in the Northern Netherlands) and U16/U17 (In Schijndel). Countries sending teams to these events have typically alsoi been successful with their (open) national teams.
A few years ago, the IKF Congress decided to make a bold step and aim for more youth competitions at an international level. It was decided that at each of the continents U15 and U17 championships would be held for national teams, and that at world level the IKF would hold championships at U19 and U21. Recently, the IKF Council has slightly revised the rhythms and frequency of these events, and also made clear that it is up to the Continental Confederations to decide whether continental youth events would be held, and in which format. Asia, for instance, has moved ahead with Korfball4 championships for U17 and U19.
It is now important that all countries set themselves targets to take part in these international youth championships. Participation can only happen if a national organization also sets up youth club or school leagues within the country. Unfortunately, especially many of the countries that have joined the IKF in the past ten years do not have such competitions, despite being active with youth promotion in schools or otherwise.
I believe it is crucial for a country to develop its youth korfball competition system. Especially with the introduction of korfball4 as an official competition format, it has now become much easier to start a youth league or championship tournament: fewer players and less space is needed. Even in case there is locally a shortage of equipment this has become much easier: korfball4 can also be played with only a single korf.
I do hope that aiming for entering into an international competition can be an extra incentive to organize youth leagues. As an example, the Chinese Taipei Korfball Association has for many years now given the right to represent the national federation to the school teams that wins the U17 competition. In another move, the coach of the champion of the U19 competition, gets appointed national coach and the ability to select the national U19 team. Many of these incentives can help to motivate schools and clubs to set up youth teams. Only your creativity is the limit.