Over the past century the world has developed by leaps and bounds when it comes to the equality of the sexes. Women have campaigned for many years for the right to be treated as equals in all areas of social living and in the year of 2012 it is ever more apparent that it is no longer just a man’s world. However in the world of sport are things the same? Male sports have always been at the forefront of entertainment and get most of the media’s attention. Football, Rugby, basketball, hockey, boxing and the list go on. Even though these sports are primarily dominated by men why is Netball still a woman’s only sport? Let’s look at the history of netball and see whether we can discover the roots of its origins and why even though we live in a more or less equal society why women dominate this sport.
The creation of Netball becomes quite apparent when looking at its origins. During the early 1890s an alternative to basketball was created for women so that they could enjoy the sport as well. Women’s basketball took of across the western world and as its popularity grew. Because there were no official rules to the sport it was modified over a certain about of years and it was then finally named netball. At the birth of netball it was considered a perfectly acceptable sport for women to play and during the early 1920s and it spread far and wide among the British colonies such as Australia. The sport became very popular over time among women but was somewhat spoilt when it came to people perception of the rules in different countries. After many years of confusion amongst different netball associations in 1957 different groups of Netball organisations decided to team up to create a governing body which would regulate professional Netball as well as enforce the official rules of the sport. In 1960 representations from different countries met to finalise the governing body and the International Federation of Netball associations was born. For an In depth look at the rules of netball please watch the following video.
Looking back at the brief history of Netball we can see it was created as an alternative for basketball. This was at the turn of the 1900s when women playing a contact sport would not have been deemed acceptable by social conventions. But this still doesn’t answer the question why in the modern world is it still really accepted as a female sport. After looking at various degrees of research it becomes apparent that Netball is slowly growing as a male sport as well. In Australia netball is a popular sport and Men’s teams are becoming growing. In recent years teams based in England, Fiji, Kenya, Jamaica and Dubai have started to be regonised. In England however the population of netball players in school that are men is less than 1% which just goes to show it is still a sport that is dominated by women, this is an interesting point because it goes to show that even schools won’t really teach men how to play from a young age and it is common knowledge that most athletes train from a young age. Another element to this is mixed gender netball teams also operate around the world. However they are still not recognized at an elite level and are all self-funded teams.
In Australia Netball became more popular for men in the 1980s. The reason for this being that men used to take their partners to play the sport and an over whelming interest in the male community grew. Over the years the popularity grew even more and the male following of netball created its own association known as the “Australian International Men’s and Mixed Netball Association”. The group has been running now since 2001 and in 2002 had its first championships for all male and mixed team. The group has had some success pushing men further into the sport as it has seen teams from all over the world come and take part but it still hasn’t had the success of bigger all women associates in that sport. Here is a link to the “Australian International Men’s and Mixed Netball Association” to find out more about their aims.
After looking at this evidence it would suggest that Netball has been taken on by some male participants but is still not taken as serious when woman play it. Another interesting fact to bring to the table is the role of Netball in “The Gay Games”. “The Gay Games” were set up in the early 1980s to promote personal growth amongst people with different sexual orientations. One of the sports played at the Gay games is Netball and the categories are Men’s, transgender and mixed. One stand out point was that all male teams were not allowed to participate against female teams. This being for the reason in all sports you don’t put a male team against a female team however it’s quite interesting that transgender teams have a league of their own which can only really be put down reasons of anatomy.
When researching this topic I found it hard to gather much information on why Netball is an all-female sport. From browsing the web for many hours all I kind find was the history of Netball which brought me to these conclusions. From the research I have done I have found that the modern world still classes netball predominantly as a female sport, however across the eastern world men do play the sport and one country that is really trying to push it is Australia but it is still on a small scale and yet to have had much media attention. It’s interesting that the International federation of netball association doesn’t recognise Netball as a male sport. I think the reason for this is because when it was invented Netball was still an all-female sport. As mentioned earlier on the Gay Games also feature Netball for men which and has different ways of classing players but again it is a small feature to the games and has little coverage. The one feature of this topic that stands out is Netball was invented out of circumstance in the late 1800s as a way of Women playing Basketball with no contact. Which bring me to this point. Back in that time period it may have not been deemed acceptable for woman to play rough sports so it’s understandable that it was created, but in this day and age basketball is played by both sexes and is very popular amongst women. The best way to look at the theory of why it’s not so popular with men is looking at the social stereotypes of sports. Seeing as Netball was created for women, does that mean by social conventions if you play Netball you are a girl? This is not something I believe as I feel everybody is equal and the only way we can move forward as a society is to accept people for who they are, but it seems to me that the only way Netball will be accepted as an all gender sport is if the world changes it’s pre conceptions.