England Netball launches NETBALLHer to drive systemic change for women’s health

England Netball has today lent its voice to call for systemic change by launching NETBALLHer – a programme to better educate women and girls at all levels of sport about their bodies across the different life stages.

England Netball is aiming to bring women and girls to the fore by challenging a sporting structure that for too long simply hasn’t served them sufficiently. What we have as a result is a society that is woefully uneducated about the female body, and this has to change.

Today, the national governing body is launching NETBALLHer – an industry-leading education programme that through the provision of a necessary level of knowledge and support for everyone, aims to drive real change and normalise conversations on topics around the female body.

NETBALLHer will see England Netball uphold their focus on women and girls, becoming the first sport where all women and girls are able to show up authentically, without apology and truly belong. The hope is to empower women and girls across the different life stages and to also acknowledge the stark health inequalities that exist between females related to socio-economic, ethnicity and geographic location.

By educating our staff, coaches, officials and volunteers to create environments where females can train and compete irrespective of what their changing body throws at them, we will collectively improve experiences, fostering a sense of belonging that could reduce drop out and increase the number of females playing across the different life stages. We also aim to improve athlete performance through optimising training around players’ physiology.

In doing so, netball will become the only sport to focus on completely changing the whole system to better serve females at all life stages. From grassroots to elite, players to gamemakers – NETBALLHer will touch the lives of everyone involved.

Fran Connolly, CEO of England Netball said: “It’s time for change. Hundreds of thousands of women take part in sport every day but for far too long they have been supported by a system that simply hasn’t served the needs of females.

“Today, we are standing up as a leading voice in women’s sport to highlight this. We want to create environments at all levels of our game where women and girls can thrive and show up as their authentic selves. With the support of the wider Netball Family, we have the power to bring about this necessary change; to educate people about women’s health, to open up conversations about these topics and to create a system that addresses the drop off rate within women’s sport.

“This is about raising the bar for females, to help educate, inspire, and create a community of support and we are proud to be the first to look at women’s health across the whole of our game.

“Through our work we will continue to put women and girls first, and we hope through the NETBALLHer movement we can enable everyone involved in netball and beyond, to have a better understanding of women’s health.”

Currently, only 6% of sports science research is dedicated specifically to females*. On top of this, over 82% of women from UK say they have never received any education about their menstrual cycle in relation to exercise and training.**

In addition, 69% of women take a break from playing netball and 41% of teenage girls step back or drop out of playing netball completely. If this is not addressed, more women and girls will drop out of sport.

The lack of support and understanding of female life stages currently in sport and society is evident:

  • 88% of women say their menstrual cycle symptoms limit performance and 30% say symptoms “significantly” impact quality of life
  • 50% of post-natal women experience pelvic floor dysfunction, a barrier to return to sport
  • 64% of girls will have left sport by the time they finish puberty
  • Just under a third of women stop being active during menopause, yet the desire to be active is high
  • Women are eight times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than males

Further research has been carried out in netball where England Netball found:

  • 48% of teenage girls lack self-belief and don’t feel good enough to continue playing netball
  • 39% of girls don’t do sport when they are on their period
  • 27% of women drop out of netball due to injury
  • 38% of netball coaches want to learn more about how to support women and girls more effectively at every stage of life

In 2019, as part of nationwide consultation for England Netball’s new 10-year Adventure Strategy, it was strongly felt that the national governing body should act beyond the court to support women and girls at every life stage and every life age.

Working with The Well HQ, the female health experts, with funding support from Sport England, the NETBALLHer  movement will enable everyone in netball and beyond, to better understand, nurture and support women and girls.

A dedicated NetballHER website has been created where anyone can access expert resources for free. This includes real stories and support from leading experts to understand female bodies. Topics include pelvic health, menopause, the menstrual cycle and bras and kit with more to come on pre and post-natal, injury and puberty. In addition, a series of detailed CPD courses will be launched this summer on puberty, young women, pre and post-natal and menopause.

Over the last few months, Vitality Rose Eleanor Cardwell has been raising awareness on social media about the importance of wearing appropriate sports bras and engaging with fans with her reviews.

She said: “It’s great to see more work being done to educate people on women’s health. Growing up I got larger breasts than everyone else and I wasn’t given any information about what kind of sports bra I should wear and it made taking part in PE quite uncomfortable.

“I hope through this movement we, as a sport, can have more open conversations about topics like this and girls can play sport without being concerned about areas of their body or their health.”

Baz Moffatt, CEO and Co-founder of The Well HQ added: “What England Netball is doing is pioneering and an outstanding NGB to be working with. They’ve been determined to make sure that all parts of their organisation are included so that all girls and women involved in England Netball can thrive on and off the court. This is just the start of embedding best practice in female health into netball and something that we are very proud to be a part of.”

Nicola Just, Head of Partner Support at Sport England said: “This is such an exciting approach and reflects a different way of thinking for England Netball. I can’t wait to see the impact that this has for women and girls and the ripple effect that NETBALLHer creates across sport. It ties in perfectly with the ambitions of our This Girl Can campaign, which celebrates women of all shapes and sizes getting active in a way that works for them regardless of their ability or background.”

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of Women in Sport commented: “Netball is a game of speed, skill, spatial awareness and teamwork of the most intricate highspeed nature. Whilst in this country women are no longer overtly excluded from sport, still 22% fewer girls than boys play team sport and there are multiple reasons for this. Netball is leading the way in ensuring that the less obvious barriers girls and women face in sport are addressed.  Netball is making sure that players are surrounded by the knowledge and understanding of female physicality that is so lacking in many environments. Again, it is leading the way in women’s sport.”

Tammy Parlour, CEO of Women’s Sport Trust added: “Great to see England Netball looking at what women and girls need off the court as well as the great job they do on the court. It’s so important that women and girls in all sports can turn up as their authentic selves. These topics need to be discussed and a sporting system created which is fit for purpose.”

To find out more about NETBALLHer visit www.netballher.co.uk.

Follow England Netball on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to view more about NETBALLHer and to see more conversations being opened up about women’s health.

*based on research performed by The Well HQ

*according to a study of 14,000 women by FitrWoman and Strava

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