Netball Australia has backed the lead taken by one of its state federations after announcing a uniform overhaul in an effort to foster greater inclusion in the modern game.
Netball NSW on Tuesday unveiled a new clothing line to give players more flexibility and expand the appeal of the game in a move that could spell the end of traditional netball dress.
The dresses will still be available for those who still want to wear them, but options added to the field now include a range of jerseys, t-shirts, long-sleeved tops, shorts and compression garments.
“Netball NSW believes that all participants should, whenever possible, be encouraged to wear a uniform that allows them to participate in netball in the way that is most convenient for them,” said Netball NSW CEO Tain Drinkwater.
“The main goal is to ensure that we advance our position as a sport for people not only of all cultural backgrounds and gender identities, but also of all shapes and sizes.
“It is clear that the rigidity when it comes to clubs only allowing dresses is holding back our participation numbers.”
There are currently no regulations stipulating that dresses must be worn by players. Instead, the rules for playing clothing are set at the competition level, with associations responsible for prescribing uniform parameters for their affiliated clubs.
The member organizations do the same for teams participating in state level events and Netball Australia sets the parameters for the country’s professional competition, Super Netball.
But the new clothing line, manufactured by Valor Sport, now gives these clubs and community associations a much wider range of options and the ability to ensure that uniforms can be more inclusive.
“We encourage all affiliated clubs and associations to embrace adaptability and flexibility around uniforms to encourage continued participation and enjoyment in our sport,” said Drinkwater.
“As of today, they have the tools to do just that, supported by new inclusive uniform guidelines prepared by Netball NSW.”
The program has gained support from the national governing body, Netball Australia, whose review of the state of the game last year highlighted the problem after finding that existing uniform options presented obstacles for many. people wishing to start or continue playing football.
“Netball Australia is working closely with member organizations in our states and territories on innovative approaches to administration that remove barriers to participation and create more inclusive and welcoming environments for everyone to play, play and enjoy. of our game, ”said Kelly Ryan, CEO of Netball Australia.
“Netball Australia encourages all member organizations in states and territories to embrace adaptability and flexibility around uniforms… [and] think these changes will increase our game and everyone’s enjoyment.
Surveys of grassroots netball players helped inform the initiative, with a study conducted by the University of Victoria finding that 58% of girls did not want to wear skirts during sports outside of school and 64% preferred. wear dark-colored stockings.
Another study conducted by the University of Sydney found that only 8% of Netball NSW members speak a language other than English and only 6% were born overseas.
Those of multicultural or culturally and linguistically diverse origin were more likely (32%) to drop out after just one year than their English-speaking or Australian-born counterparts.
“In many ways this is a watershed moment,” Drinkwater said of the initiative. “Netball has been the leader in many areas, but not when it comes to expanding its appeal beyond the traditional basics. It is time to change that.