Breaking the shackles of netball development
By Andrew Bonani Kamanga
THE Netball Youth World Cup will be held from 8 to 16 July 2017 in Gaborone, Botswana, and it will be the first time to hold such an event on the African continent.
This is a monumental achievement and a tribute to the hard work that the African netball leadership has put in for the development of the game.
Joan Smit (Namibia) and Tebogo Lebotse-Sebego (Botswana) live and breathe netball and have been excellent role models for other sport leaders on the continent.
Netball like so many other so-called “small sport codes” has been overshadowed by football for a very long time.
The sport which is dominated mostly by girls and women has been struggling, literally, for everything. Netball in most Southern African countries does not have good facilities.
It does not enjoy a lot of patronage from spectators and sponsors. Most women and girls play the game seriously while they are still in secondary schools and colleges. Soon after, they are lost to the game owing to marital and family commitments as well as career choices.
The sport has all along been played largely for recreational purposes, hence creating high-profile role models has not been easy.
However, things are slowly changing in Southern Africa, following in the footsteps of developments in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom where professional leagues are now in place.
In South Africa, a professional netball league is now fully functional providing high-class entertainment to followers of the game.
Meaningful sponsorship has been secured for the league, which makes things more exciting.
Of course, compared to the more established leagues elsewhere in the world, the South African netball league is still in its infancy.
Nonetheless, this is a most welcome development which provides the girl child and young women a greater range of options in terms of employment through sport. South Africa also has advantages in terms of the size of its economy and the population.
Netball is relatively easier to sell in this sport-mad country than in any of the other states in the hinterland. Most netball administrators would definitely be salivating and getting envious of the opportunities galore that their counterparts in South Africa have.
However, just like most challenges in life, you cannot just throw money at problems, hoping that they will disappear. Nothing can substitute
sound administration and management of the game.