Empowering girls through netball

With more young girls playing netball in Australia than any other sport, one New South Wales Club has taken the initiative to use netball as a vehicle to help improve their players both on and off the court.

During the 2014 season, the Gazelles Netball Club from the Baulkham Hills Shire Netball Association introduced a new personal development program called the “Gazelles Empowerment Program” (GEP).

The Club prides itself on team spirit, friendship and fun, but the main objective of GEP was to give their junior netballers – Under 11s through to Under 14s inclusive – tools to help empower and encourage them to be the best they can be.

“I’ve been involved in sport along time, working in Rugby League and heading up the NRL’s Community Program, so I knew the power of sport and I’ve always had a passion for netball,” explained Gazelles’ Committee Member and GEP Leader, Trish Crews. “The idea for the Gazelles Empowerment Program started over a conversation at the back school gates with another parent, Raewyn Elsegood.”

“We were just talking about how happy, safe and comfortable our daughters feel at netball and how they had learnt many life skills from participating in netball.”

It was from this one conversation that this first of a kind program was born. “We thought a program like this would not only be beneficial for the girls taking part, but also the coaches, and helping them manage challenging situations in a more effective way,” explained Trish.

“Raewyn, a former Church Pastor based in the Hills Area, is currently writing a book on women’s empowerment; sousing our combined expertise we designed and rolled out this Program.”

The GEP was run over four nights during the netball season with 114 players, coaches and team managers participating. The Program covered the areas of self-assessment, team dynamics, acknowledgment and accepting differences, discovering personalities and strengths, teamwork and mentoring.

Another important aspect of the program was when the girls came to each session, they spent time on the court in their age groups rather than in teams, and did specific training around different positions, skills and team work – leading to great improvements on the court.

“The feedback has been really positive. You could tell every night they [the players] left happy, had been engaged and had a great time,” remarked Trish.

“But the feedback from parents, particularly the mothers, has been overwhelmingly positive. They have been happy about how conversations have started between them and their child about the topics discussed, and how grateful they were the Club had run such a Program.”

As a Club Committee Member, Trish said everyone has seen a definite improvement throughout the Club around the areas of Clubmanship and team spirit.

“One of our objectives, particularly for the older girls, was to get them to start thinking about how they could become more involved and give back to the Club. Whether that was encouraging them to umpire or coach, or getting them to mentor the younger teams– it was great to see this happen as a by-product of our Program,” concluded Trish.

After the overwhelming success of the inaugural year, Gazelles Netball Club is looking to roll the Program out again next season and extend this to include their Under 10s.

Upon attending the GEP Graduation Ceremony, where guests included surfing legend Layne Beachley and former NSW Swift Ashlee Weir, Netball NSW General Manager – Sports Development Nikki Horton was full of admiration for the Program.

“I can’t praise Gazelles Netball Club enough for introducing this inspirational Program and one which has had such a positive impact on all involved with the Club,” said Nikki.

“It’s great to see a Club looking outside the box at how they can help its Members as people, not just as players, and I can see other Clubs adopting something similar as part of their winter season.”

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