Traditional netball dresses could soon become a relic of the past, as Netball NSW launches a new uniform range for players that will be more inclusive and comfortable for people of all ages, gender identities and cultural backgrounds.
The new range of apparel includes different options for amateur players in NSW, including singlets, t-shirts, long-sleeve tops, shorts, and compression wear. The traditional netball dress will also remain in the mix for players, if they wish to wear it.
The uniform options have been designed to give players choice and more flexibility, as netball looks to broaden its appeal to a wider mix of players. It comes after last year’s State of the Game review, which was chaired by Liz Ellis and found that a lack of flexibility when it came to the netball uniform was a major drawback for participation, and even led to some players leaving the sport behind for good.
Tain Drinkwater, CEO of Netball NSW, said the new approach to uniforms, offering more flexibility and inclusivity, was vital to the game’s continued growth. She said it was a “watershed moment” for netball, a sport that has always been very traditional.
“Netball NSW believes that all participants should, as far as possible, be supported in wearing a uniform that allows them to participate in netball in the manner in which they feel most comfortable,” Drinkwater said.
Drinkwater explained that contrary to popular belief, the rules of netball do not indicate that a registered playing uniform must be a dress.
“The rules indicate that it must be the registered playing uniform. This uniform is defined by Clubs and approved by Associations. This means our grassroots community has the chance to ensure uniforms are inclusive for everyone,” she said.
“The key aim of this is to make sure we advance our position as a sport for people not just of all cultural backgrounds and gender identities, but all shapes and sizes too. It is clear that rigidity when it comes to Clubs only allowing dresses is holding back our participation numbers.”
Netball NSW is encouraging clubs and associations to embrace the new flexibility around uniforms to encourage continued and broader participation in netball.
“From today, they have the tools to do just that, backed by new Inclusive Uniform Guidelines prepared by Netball NSW,” Drinkwater said. “In many ways this is a watershed moment. Netball has been the leader in so many areas, but not when it comes to widening its appeal beyond traditional bases. It is time to change that.”
The decision to expand the uniform range for players was informed by research that has indicated the traditional netball dress was a barrier to participation in netball for many.
According to a study by Victoria University, 58 per cent of girls said they did not want to wear skirts during sport outside of school. 85 per cent of girls surveyed said they preferred to wear shorts during sport outside of school.
Meanwhile, according to a study by the University of Sydney, only 8 per cent of Netball NSW members speak a language other than English and only 6 per cent are born overseas. Players from culturally diverse backgrounds were 32 per cent more likely to drop out after only a year playing netball.