Netball: Our girls just wanna have fun

Recently there’s been quite a bit in the news about parents behaving badly at children sports games. We’ve been struggling to give Jasmine the opportunity to have a social game of netball, where she can play in a term with her friends and where the focus is on fun.

When she was in Year 2, one of the mums organised a netball team of girls at the school. They weren’t a great team but they had fun and loved playing. They were in a large, very successful club, and after two years, the club was going to grade them individually and put them in different teams. They really wanted to stay together, so we changed clubs and they continued to playing as a team.

Now as I’ve said, they weren’t a great team, but for some reason they were put in the top grade. We knew they weren’t that good, but we couldn’t change the decision. Not surprisingly they lost every match. Their best score  was 5 to 15 and their worst was 3 to 52. Although it was a bit disheartening, they didn’t mind too much and continued to have fun.

When Jasmine had to do a speech for a public speaking competition, she spoke about how the main thing she had learnt from netball was how to be a really, really, really good loser.

This year we hoped it would be different. We wanted them to go into the third grade (out of four) but they were only dropped one grade. Our club appealed twice, but again with no success. We still started the year with high hopes that they might be able to win at least one match. The reaction to the first match was really quite amusing. Despite losing 12 to 19, everybody was really excited and positive. For the first quarter, it even looked like that they had a chance of winning.

It all came crashing down today. They lost 34 to 4. The kids (and us parents) were pretty devastated. When we look at the other results (and how the other teams have performed against the two teams we’ve played) it looks like they are in for another year of big losses.

We really don’t think we are asking too much for our girls to be in a competition where they have the chance of winning at least one match in two years. We think it is good for them to lose some (or even most) of the time. We don’t want them to be very competitive; we want them to have fun and to be good sports.

We don’t know why they have been put in grades which are clearly above their standard. We don’t know why we haven’t been listened to when we have tried to change things. We want the focus to be on the social side of playing together and against other teams. But it really does feel like the netball association doesn’t know how to handle a team where the main motivation is not winning. They have been put in grades where most of the teams are serious about winning and it feels like we can’t do anything about it.

If our girls keep getting trounced for a second year, I doubt many will really want to play again. It doesn’t seem fair that the girls are continually put in a situation where they can’t win, and it isn’t all that much fun continually playing against teams who are significantly better than you. We complain when parents take the game so seriously that they abuse the refs, push their kids too much, or fight with other parents. But when we have tried to create a situation where our kids can enjoy a game of netball in friendly competition, we haven’t been accommodated.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
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