Our People: Karen Ponsonby, Selwyn’s champion coach

BUSY TIME: Greenpark A netball coach Karen Ponsonby at home with three week old lambs that she and husband Leo raise to export their wool all over the world.

Greenpark A’s straight shooting netball coach Karen Ponsonby has tasted Selwyn netball success yet again this year. Sports reporter Jacob Page finds out how netball goes
hand-in-hand with her rural lifestyle and why her summer weekends can be just as busy as her winter ones.

What was your first memory of netball?

We were a really sporty family of eight boys and five girls. I’m the youngest girl and four boys are younger than me. We had a team for any occasion. My older sisters used to play netball in Waimate, so I would follow them to the courts.

How did your netball playing days progress?

I played in Waimate then for Waimate High School and St Pat’s in Timaru as a defender, usually a wing defence. I made the South Canterbury Country team for the first time in 1969. That was a composite team from Waimate, Fairlie and Twizel, which went to the nationals in those days.

What got you into coaching?

I had bad knees from playing the game on the concrete courts. I had one knee replacement two years ago and will need another one soon. When I left South Canterbury I started coaching the Dunsandel A team in 1987 and enjoyed it. I was made a life member there in 2007.

When did your association with Greenpark begin?

I came to Greenpark in 2002 and started coaching their premier team. We have had a fair bit of success over that time. We won the Selwyn competition in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2011 and of course, this year. The girls don’t train during the week and to be honest, I felt quite guilty about winning the final like we did because Broadfield was the better team leading up to the final. We don’t have a manager and I have to find out which one of their friend’s turns up so we have a primary carer. It’s a tough way to coach, I’m just fortunate we have a lot of good readers of the game out on court.

What’s the most enjoyable thing about netball for you?

I do it for the love of the game.

What about your children?

One of my daughters is the deputy principal at Waimate High School which shows you what a small world it is. While the other still plays netball in the Greenpark A team.

What do you do for a job?

My husband Leo and I have been running Greenacres Fibre Processing. We have 300 to 400 black and coloured sheep and their wool is used in a lot of craft work. We also export the wool to places like Japan and Russia. It’s something we’ve been involved in for the last 30 years.

What makes a good fleece of wool?

It comes down to good food, good grass and good soil but a lot of that is quite technical.

What do you do in your spare time?

I used to play lawn bowls in the summer, but I struggle to get down on my knee now. We do a lot of wool showing and that takes up a lot of our time on Saturdays and to be honest, it takes me all summer to get over the netball season.

Do you plan on returning next year to coach Greenpark A?

I think I’ve got another year in me. We need another goal shooter but we have our eye
on someone. I’ve often mentioned to the girls about dropping down to the masters grade but most of them tell me they’d rather retire than play in that grade. My daughter played in the team but swears to me the final was her last game so maybe I can retire and she can take over or I could become our primary carer.

How is the club going?

I think we are the only team representing Greenpark and that’s been part of the reason I’ve stuck around and some of the girls have done the same thing. I’d like to see the club keep going.