Netball participation numbers are dropping, which is a problem for women’s fitness in Australia and New Zealand as traditionally netball has been the sport with the highest participation rates for women.
A friendly lurker (thanks, R.) sent me a link to this story: Blokes out of their league. Senator Kate Lundy raised the issue in a Senate estimates committee hearing after a report into participation rates was published by Netball Australia last week. Interestingly, instead of listening to the conclusions of the experts who actually played and studied the game, one Mark Peters (who heads up the Australian Sports Commission), came up with totally new theory, which was his, that what was driving falling participation was (a) all about injury rates and (b) he knew exactly which silly girl rule was to blame, too, by golly.
Mr Peters’s line of thinking had Senator Lundy miffed because she felt there were more serious issues to discuss regarding the nation’s most popular game for women.
“I just think it’s a bit of a red herring in the scheme of things,” Senator Lundy said. “There are plenty of other issues confronting netball that I think they need to resolve. One of them is the cost of participation.
“I think it was a bit of an old-fashioned understanding of how the game is played, it’s not a particularly good understanding of the game. You know maybe part of the problem is that blokes don’t understand netball.
“He alluded to some previous study that the Sports Commission had done, it must be pretty old “¦ blokes reckon they know about everything that’s going on in women’s sport, but you know, they put their foot in it. It’s terrific.”
Various elite netballers politely declined to say they thought Mark Peters was talking out of his arse, but you could tell they wanted to.
It’s interesting that Senator Lundy pointed to the cost of participation as crucial, but the other main reportage about the Netball Australia study concentrated on an angle that just cried out for a picture of netballers in skimpy uniforms. That would be the section of the report dealing with negative entry-level player perceptions of skimpy netball uniforms. (Oi. That’s going to up my hits from people looking for upsk*rting stuff) To be scrupulously fair, the issue of overly sexualised uniforms disincentivising participation rates was raised by another Senate committee report last year, so I guess it’s only to be expected that the newspapers follow that up, but again: it’s not the only issue highlighted as affecting participation rates.
The report, Motivations and Barriers to Women Participating in Sport and Netball, recommends that teams in the lower grades be allowed to wear shorts, provided all players are dressed similarly.
Melbourne Netball director Clare Heasley said it was time Netball Australia addressed body-image issues.
“We’re tackling an obesity crisis and women are being discouraged by these ridiculous outfits,” she said. “I don’t have one dress in my wardrobe as short as a netball skirt. It’s one step away from being in a swimming pool.”
Most players at Melbourne Netball chose to wear leggings or shorts, Ms Heasley said. “Players must feel comfortable and safe.”
See? The newspaper could have illustrated that with a shot of the Melbourne Netball players in their shorts/leggings, instead of/as well as the shot of the Australian team in the skimpies, which has been captioned “Professional players prefer to wear tight-fitting uniforms that absorb sweat more easily”, a quote from a representative of Netball Australia.
I wrote about this last year. No matter what the leagues say, there is no good athletic reason for the skin-display disparity between male and female uniforms in similiar sports. If bodyfitting lycra were really all that crucial to sweat absorption and ease of movement, professional male basketball players would be wearing short skimpy lycra. They’re not, are they?
And of course, nobody has yet written a newspaper article concentrating on the cost of participation as a disincentive. How could they work a skimpy uniform photo into that?