“How Netball and some Aussie expats are helping America’s youth…and National Security”
The popular international sport of Netball has been striving to gain the attention of the American sporting community for years, but perhaps has now found itself with a greater role led by a group of determined Aussie expats – helping America’s youth get fit and subsequently helping counteract a major threat to the United States national security – obesity.
Netball America was formed in 2007 by a group of sport loving Australians as a way to play the sport they loved and missed from home. “There was a group of us expats living in the US that were passionate about Netball because we all grew up playing it”, explains Sonya Ottaway, Co-Founder and President of Netball America.
Even though Netballs’ origins stem from the US some 30 years ago as the initial form of Basketball, most Americans have never heard of the sport. “Expats are the ones that have to grow the sport here and teach it. But our goal is to get it in with Americans. In a sport loving country like America, there’s got to be an opportunity for Netball”, Sonya says.
‘The Opportunity’ appears to be the positive effect Netball is having on America’s youth who have lost faith in mainstream US sports such as football, baseball and basketball due to the stress of their high contact and competitive nature. “Popular American sports tend to promote individual prowess and success, whereby Netball demonstrates values of teamwork and inclusiveness in a non-contact environment, suitable for any sex, size, shape and sporting ability”, says Roslyn Day, VP of Education for Netball America.
Netball America recently signed a contract with the Miami Dade County education authority in Florida to start Netball programmes in the 350 elementary and high schools in the county. This year it also launched Netball programmes in more than 400 community sports centres run by the New York City Housing Authority.
In perhaps the biggest indication of the success Netball America is having on America’s youth, Sonya and Netball America were recently invited to attend the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport & Nutrition’s ‘President’s Challenge Program’ by council member Dr. Jane Greenberg. As a result, Netball America will be the first US sporting team to pilot the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+). The PALA Award helps encourage adults to take part in 30 mins and teens 60 mins of physical activity each day, 5 days a week for 6 weeks. The award is also in support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s, ‘Let’s Move’ initiative, aimed to increase the fitness of Americans, in particular teenagers.
It was at this meeting in Washington DC, Sonya also became aware of perhaps a bigger issue the American government was concerned about in relation to fitness – that obesity is one of America’s biggest threat to security right now. “Kids and their obesity is leading to diabetes and not living as long as their parents. The US worry, who are we going to have to staff our security forces in the future? Currently 24% of new marines have to go to pre-boot camp”.
Dr.Greenberg confirms these concerns. “When you start having conversation about over 30% of youth being overweight; over 17% of youth being obese; that the present lifespan of today’s youth will not exceed their parents; that physical inactivity leads to greater chance of cardiovascular disease than smoking (American Heart Association) and that health care costs to treat factors related to obesity is in the trillions of dollars, the real question is how can you not promote health and fitness to America’s youth.”
This newly formed partnership will no doubt increase interest in Netball America too as the organisation continues to expand into new states and school programs. Said Dr. Greenberg, “I would like to do whatever I can to bring Netball forward as a sport option in the US. “Netball is a great way that we can promote physical activity to help all Americans live healthier lives!”
» At the recent University World Championships in South Africa, Netball America President, Sonya Ottaway and the first ever USA Representative Netball team(World Rank 8th) was asked to visit and speak at Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls. Read more about the trip in Netball America’s latest Newsletter.
» Netball America’s 2012 National Championships will be held in Las Vegas, November 9-11, open to women’s and mixed teams. To find out more Click here.
» Houston’s Netball Team the ‘Shooting Stars’ train and play regularly and are always looking for new recruits and are fielding 3 teams for the 2012 National Championships.
» If you are interested in getting Netball into a school, community or college in your area contact Netball America.