The long (sleeves) and shorts of it in this sports uniform debate | The Courier

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NETBALLERS in the region’s leading netball competitions will officially have a choice for a little extra cover as they take to the courts this winter season. Long sleeves are in and, while we are unlikely to see players wear shorts instead of a dress, associations have flagged they are open to the option in a bid to help more females feel comfortable in the sport. Ballarat Football Netball League has modified its by-laws to allow clubs to register long-sleeve tops, in the same color as dresses, as part of uniforms from this season. Central Highlands Netball League seniors have been able to wear long sleeves for matches in bad weather but this season 13 / under A-grade players will also be allowed tights and leggings. While these shifts are more designed for warmth, leagues are open to greater uniform diversity, such as shorts to promote body confidence and inclusion in the game. Choice, they say, has become particularly more important in trying to build up participation numbers in the wake of competitions sidelined in lengthy lockdowns. A Victoria University study released late last month showed flexible uniform policies and regulations improved girls’ and women’s comfort, readiness and desire to play. Adolescent girls, a cohort with high sports drop-out rates, flagged in an earlier part of the study they preferred choices in where they did not feel overexposed and where clothes were not unisex. Netball Victoria participation manager Mel Taylor said the state body had participated in the study and had tweaked its uniform recommendations to clubs. “As a sport the last thing we want to do is drive away players because the uniform doesn’t suit or they feel uncomfortable,” Ms Taylor said. “Ultimately the decision is for people running the competitions but we want them to think about suitable choices.” … It’s about comfort and choice, keeping in mind netball is a team sport and requires consistency. We also appreciate there is a real pride in representing the club in uniforms. “BFNL netball manager Gemma Taylor said no club had yet brought up shorts as a uniform option but the league was open to exploring options. Players can wear shorts under netball dresses. There is no major shift in the CHNL, except in junior ranks.CHNL vice-president Jordan O’Keefe said the country’s football-netball space tended to still be more traditional but Wendouree Netball Association, of which he is manager, offers more relaxed social approaches to the game. It was not uncommon to see social netballers wear loose fitting shorts and t-shirts at the Ballarat Sports and Events Center, where the association was based, but Mr O’Keefe said there were still uniform standards. “When you ‘re paying to compete, there does need to be standard rules but we like to offer an alternative to participation, “Mr O’Keefe said.” There are standards we accept but these should also be standards players are comfortable i n. “Ballarat Netball Association operations manger and former state league coach Jo Dash said uniform modifications were not new – often made at the discretion of clubs and leagues. Ms Dash said what was new was the evolution for clubs and leagues to actively offer players greater uniform options. Sporting apparel companies have started to create netball uniform options for clubs, allowing for the possibility of a team mixing dresses and shorts on court but still looking as a team. Ms Dash said potential for competition shorts had been flagged in the Victorian Netball League about two years ago in response to a growing awareness some players did not feel comfortable in dresses. She said for most players it was not an issue, especially when young players look to elite ranks such as the Australian Diamonds or SuperNetball players and what they wear as the norm. But an evolution was coming. “We are telling our clubs we are open to change, but they need to be open to considering change too,” Ms Dash said. “We don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable playing netball. If it means a child, or an adult, doesn’t want to play because they feel uncomfortable then we need to look at that.” The BNA, which offers indoor and outdoor competition, has not yet changed its by-laws but considers uniform exemptions on a case-by-case basis. The association also has a social competition with a more relaxed approach. IN OTHER NEWS If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat’s story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.


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