“BOYS LIGHT UP”
There’s been a lot of hype and discussion around Male inclusion in Netball. It’s a funny thing, because to me males in netball was quite a prominent factor throughout my own playing journey. I remember being 14 or 15 years old, playing a lot of Indoor Netball, as it was really popular at the time and many of us crossed between it and mainstream netty. It kept us going all year round. I vividly remember being quite in awe of our Open men. They were tall, athletic and could play. I loved getting to play up in the mixed team with them. It bought a new dynamic to my game, made me think outside the square and it really challenged me. Many of those men went on to represent the QLD and Australian Men’s Teams. Over the past 25 years, it seemed to fizzle out; I didn’t really think much about it. I knew the Indoor Netball was still going, there seemed to be a few efforts by individuals and groups to get the males interested in outdoor, but nothing too definite seemed to eventuate.
The last two or three years has seen a renewed surge. NQ have introduced a male division at State Age, we see The QLD Suns get moving with development programs and match play opportunities against SSN teams, QLD teams and HART teams, as well as competing in the 18U State Titles and the “Born to Shine” series. Now, with the Olympics looming, it’s on like Donkey Kong. We just can’t go from zero to a hundred….we need to build a gradual stepping stone pathway for males to aspire firstly to skill development, regular competition and then representative honours.
For those of you that don’t know, I have three boys and two girls. Both girls are netball nuts and always have been, and my two older boys have always played AFL and basketball. They never wanted to come to netball and never had any interest to play it. Not even social mixed with their mother….that hit me in the feels. My youngest boy, Braith, is a whole different story. He absolutely loves netball. He has been on my hip at every event, from training nights, to State Age, to interstate trips and Panthers games. He knows every player (and they know him), parents look out for him when I’m busy coaching or he hangs out with the girls in the tent; he has a real family in our netball community. Braith started out playing AFL like his brothers. Late last year, he was keen to sign up for the Summer Series comp being run out at Highfields. I think we created a monster. Made his statement that he was done with footy and he would be focusing on netball. Safe to say my husband wasn’t impressed.
The way I see it (and I how I tried to explain it to the rest of the family), sport is a place where we should be happy. When a person is happy, they will thrive. Not only is netball Braith’s happy place, the skills he will learn and develop will be transferable to most other sports if he chooses to try something else later down the track. It’s about team work, leadership, respect and commitment. Great life skills that are also transferable in many areas of life. I was quite excited that we had 5 males at Prep4Rep out at Highfields, and another one turn up trial day. A bit of excitement has built up that we need to look at providing a two piece set option at the uniform shop. We did a poll on Facebook and Instagram, and honestly it’s blown up! The most engagement we have had on social media for a while.
The QLD Suns game against the QLD Sapphires held here in Toowoomba in October really showcased the athleticism of the males in netball, and the skill level required. Physically, we all know the men are primarily dominant in the areas of elevation and speed. That’s just our genetic make-up. But what we saw in that game, was the way these females could use the skills they have has Elite Netballers, coupled with intelligent decision making and thinking outside the box to match these men over 60 minutes. What a thrilling game to end in a draw! I also know there were a number of young men and boys at the game, who have come away in awe with what they see as a goal (QLD Suns) if they keep playing netball.
All well and good having a goal, but you need a pathway. In general the netball community is being progressive around the inclusion of males in general competition, but now we need to look at development pathways. We saw a whole lot of ugly come out of the 18U State Titles, but honestly we can put much of that down to miscommunication and the media making a mountain out of a mole hill. Putting it in perspective, people can behave badly at any sporting code event….netball is not any different. Other male dominated sports will be hard to compete with, so we need to be able to offer something that will be complimentary to other sports, but also provide further opportunities for those who want them in netball.
I would love to see some of those men from back in the day get on board to kick start a boys “Stampede” Program here on the Darling Downs. Fact is, we are a predominantly female sport. It is always amazing for any kind of growth and development to have role models and mentors that you can connect with. I think this will be vital moving forward for the males of the Region who want a pathway in netball to work through.
Keen for people to email or message us with interest to be a part of this, whether coaches, mentors, administrators….and of course the players. Like everything we do here on the Downs, we start small and simple, provide a quality program, and it builds over time, always surpassing our initial key objectives.
Nothing worthwhile ever happens overnight!