NETBALLHer One Year On: Empowering Women in Greater Manchester

In the heart of Greater Manchester, the local Netball Development Community Coach (NDCC) and Netball Development Officer (NDO) are making waves with their pioneering work in promoting female health education.  

Almost 80 programmes have been delivered across Greater Manchester in the last 12 months – 46% of those have been in underserved communities and all of which have embedded NETBALLHer. 

Since the launch of the industry-leading initiative in March 2023, NETBALLHer discussions have been integrated into netball sessions, creating a safe space for conversation around female health topics.  

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Reflecting on this, the NDCC said: “It was a bit of trial and error at first. There were some groups I knew it would be easy to just start talking about female health, but there were other groups where I knew this is going to have to be managed carefully. 

“For example, my Walking Netball groups have had a longer journey of this whole topic being taboo – it’s been embedded in their culture that we don’t talk about these things, so I knew I needed to approach those conversations with extra care.” 

NETBALLHer themes have also been strategically woven into sessions, tailoring the approach based on what netball techniques are being focusing on and the group dynamics.  

“One week, I was working on a Back to Netball group’s jumping and landing techniques – using England Netball’s Jump High Land Strong guidance – and I knew that it fitted in with the NETBALLHer theme of pelvic health and leaking,” she shared.  

“So, we incorporated it right through from the warm-up, talking about jumping and landing, how you can do that safely and what issues might come up, such as leaking, as we moved into the main session. 

“In fact, my Back to Netball groups have really taken NETBALLHer on. One group has been re-sharing all of England Netball’s Facebook posts and coming to sessions saying ‘What are we talking about this week? Next week, can we talk about this?’. It’s been fantastic. 

“The thing I hear most from participants when discussing NETBALLHer topics is the emphasis on ‘not feeling alone’ when going through significant life stages. The words most woman use are ‘now I know I’m not going mad’ or ‘thank goodness I’m not the only one’.” 

Participant Helen echoed her coach’s views: “I had been attending Back to Netball for some years before NETBALLHer was a thing. The difference is the sense of community within the group has massively strengthened since. 

“It’s that knowing that we’re all in it together – we’ve either gone through it and can advise others or we’re about to go through it and can listen to each other’s experiences.  

“I have created friendships with ladies who are 20 years old all because we have bonded over what I have been through with the menstrual cycle and what they’re going through now. We laugh and call it ‘the menstrual mentor hour’.” 

Within the Community Netball League, NETBALLHer champions have also been appointed. They not only raise awareness of NETBALLHer but utilise a portable board with QR codes to various female health topics on the website so women can find out more at their discretion.

 

Speaking about what NETBALLHer information the champions have shared most frequently, the NDCC noted: “Injury prevention has been the biggest area, because the league mainly has women 35+, and even some that are 65+, so information around preventing injury has been the most helpful for them.” 

For Karen, the NETBALLHer website information around menopause has been particularly invaluable and has equipped her to take her netball to the next level. 

She said: “As an older netballer, being able to understand the effect that exercise has on enabling me to successfully cope with the changes taking place in my body has given me the confidence to go from Walking Netball, to joining a Back to Netball group, to now playing in a league. 

“The information on warming up, fuelling up and cooling down properly is all clearly provided and has certainly helped me understand how to get the most and best out of my netball whilst undergoing major hormonal changes! 

“Netball has given me a new lease of life at an age when I thought I would be taking a much more laid-back approach and I love it so a huge, huge thank you.” 

The NETBALLHer league champions also directly address individual needs, such as providing information on menstrual cycles for younger players aiming to enhance their game.  

As a self-proclaimed feminist, the NDCC emphasises the importance of providing women and girls with essential information about their health. “It’s a no-brainer, to be honest. It’s an initiative that we on the ground can help move forward and it really is benefiting a lot of people.” 

And she particularly values content related to young girls, focusing on puberty and the menstrual cycle. ”We’re going to have their ear during the time they start their period or have their first sexual experience, so if we’ve got their ear, we might be able to provide support if they need it,” she said.  

Proactively extending NETBALLHer’s reach beyond the court, seven women have even been inspired to influence their companies into funding ‘court short’ kits, fostering a supportive environment for female health needs in their workplaces.  

As women in Greater Manchester continue to be empowered, this success story provides an example of how we can all incorporate NETBALLHer into our netball lives to champion and support women and girls. 

Find out more about NETBALLHer and our Learning Modules. 

There are so many ways NETBALLHer can be embraced and embedded within your community, including micro-volunteering by sharing the website with five other people or continuing to open up conversations in your sessions, clubs or leagues. Collectively, we have the power to keep raising the bar for women and girls at all levels of the game. 

Fancy becoming a Champion and playing a key role in amplifying NETBALLHer even further? Complete this form to register your interest. 

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