Although it is more comfortable than the stiff tunic when worn to play netball, research suggests that the modern netball dress may put players off.
- This season, the Traralgon Netball Association gave teams the option of wearing shorts and a top instead of a netball dress.
- Nationwide survey suggests sports uniforms can make girls embarrassed, leading to lower participation rates
- Netball Victoria is pushing for more uniform options available in community netball leagues and associations
Research from a University of Victoria survey reveals that girls feel embarrassed in sports uniforms may be a reason why girls’ sport participation rates are so low, especially compared to boys.
The survey showed that 85 percent of respondents preferred shorts and t-shirts during sports outside of school and 76 percent wanted their sports uniform to make them ready to play.
As the country’s most popular women’s sport is played by more than one million girls, netball plays an important role in girls’ engagement in team sports and physical activity.
Community Netball Leagues and Netball Victoria are working to increase uniform options in the sport in order to retain female players and make girls feel comfortable and confident in playing the sport.
Different uniform options help
For 11-year-old Sienna Vivian, the choice of donning shorts and a tank top instead of the traditional netball dress was easy.
“As soon as we had the option, I knew I wanted to wear shorts because I was always worried that my dress would fly off,” she said.
“I can always change next season if I didn’t like [the shorts]. “
Sienna found that sometimes when she was wearing the dress she was distracted trying to pull it down.
She said that as a taller player the dress was shorter on her than the other players.
“The dress didn’t bother me, but because, in general, I’m one of the tallest pieces in my age group, the dresses are often short, which would make me a little embarrassed,” said Sienna said.
Although there are two other girls who wear shorts on her team, Sienna says she made the decision on her own and is grateful that her association allowed her to choose.
Given the disrupted season, it was before the last COVID lockdown that Sienna played her first game in her new uniform.
Re-engage girls in sport
Given the disruption to community sport over the past 18 months, Traralgon Netball Association President Deb Archer hopes the new uniform options will encourage players to stick with netball.
With the number of players down from the previous year, the association changed the uniform policy to include shorts and a top, to make the sport more comfortable and affordable.
In addition to financial considerations, she said, in recent years, some parents have reported that their daughters feel embarrassed in the uniform.
“We always kept the flexibility for clubs who wanted to have the pride of the uniform and already had the sets [of uniforms] over there, ”Ms. Archer said.
“So it was well received in all areas.”
Netball Victoria asks for more options
Victoria University survey was a key factor in Netball Victoria’s push towards more uniform options, says Netball Victoria Affiliate Services Manager Jen Camilleri
Netball Victoria writes sample rules that provide a guide to use for each Victorian netball league and association, however, the ultimate decisions regarding uniforms come from the leagues themselves.
The organization hopes that by changing the sample rules and with a coordinated campaign later this year, more community netball leagues will follow suit by offering alternative uniform options.
“We are calling on the administrators and asking the local level to re-evaluate uniform policies to help girls feel comfortable and confident when participating in our sport,” Camilleri said.
Part of the effort has also focused on how clubs can help players who identify as transgender or of various genders feel comfortable playing the sport.
Regional clubs follow suit
The Ellinbank League’s Catani Football and Netball Club are also looking to include new uniform options for next year, including pants and a long-sleeved top to adapt to weather conditions.
“It wasn’t that long ago that we were in Neerim South playing four degrees [Celsius]”said club president Angela Branbury.
While Ms Branbury said the hope of having consistency in what they train and play could improve the performance of players if they are more comfortable.
“It’s kind of a unique situation,” she said.
“Everyone trains in tights or shorts and yet they put on a dress to play.”
While Ms. Branbury says updating the uniform is important to make netball more inclusive for everyone, her netball dress will always have a special place in her heart.
“I’m not the fittest netball athlete there is,” she said.
“I myself am 44 years old and have been playing for a very long time, but I love my dress… it represents the club and my association.”
For Ms. Archer, it’s about keeping as many players involved in the sport as possible.
“I think at the end of the day the uniform doesn’t change the way the game is played,” she said.
“If we can make that as accessible as possible and as easy as possible in a young national league, I think it’s really important.”