Former Olympian Jenni Screen was in her element as she stepped back on the basketball court last Monday after six months away.
The retired WNBL star was one of several guest coaches at a Sunbury Jets Basketball Association clinic.
“It’s really nice,” Screen said about being back on a basketball court.
“I look at it as ‘I was one of them once and this is where it started for me’.
“I went to camps put on by associations like Sunbury, looking up to people I idolised back in the day. It’s good opportunity to give back to a sport that gave me so much.”
Getting Screen out to Sunbury continues the focus of the association to give their young female basketballers role models and to encourage them to stay in the game.
Dandenong Rangers player Tegan Cunningham and former WNBL player Chelsea Burns were among other coaches at the clinic.
Screen said keeping girls playing basketball was the hardest thing.
“You get distractions once you hit years 10, 11 and 12 and that’s the hardest thing for women’s basketball,” she said.
“The question is how do we keep girls in the game.
“Hopefully opportunities like this, seeing girls like Tegan or myself, who have played at an elite level, inspires them to keep playing and not give up too soon.”
She said having role models in female basketball was important.
“They learn by association, whether it be a player or a team, and that will help them want to achieve more and dream,” she said.
“I was inspired by Sandy Brondello and Rachel Sporn when I was younger and I got to meet them when I was 14. Who knows if that was the reason I continued.”
The two-time Olympian, now based in Melbourne as a high-performance manager, said it was
good to see local associations like Sunbury giving their young basketballers the best opportunities to succeed.
“I walked into the facility and I was amazed at the quality of it,” Screen said.
“It’s a pretty formidable program and they’ve now employed Kennedy [Kereama, New Zealand women’s coach] as coaching director it’s only good for the association and the growth of its athletes.
“I have played against Kennedy for a good part of five years [at national and WNBL level] and from the other side I see he’s a good coach.
“He has developed youth over in New Zealand and, hopefully, gets that opportunity in Sunbury.”
Screen said the biggest thing she saw at the clinic was the willingness of the children wanting to be involved in the sport.
“They’ve been great,” she said. “They’ve been really good listeners. That’s a big part of being a
good basketballer, being able to listen.
“They love the game. All I ask for is hard work and a smile. They’re pretty lucky and privileged to play a great game.”
Screen, who will be 34 in February, said it was time to focus on giving back to basketball..
“My heart and head say it would be great to play, but my body says ‘don’t do it to me’,” she said.
“I’ll give back to basketball and other sports through my work and at clinics like this.”