Community sport needed to take an inventive turn to stay on the court during coronavirus. Discover how Netball Victoria adapted, launching a successful new flashcard program on 1 May.
When coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions came into force in March, community sport was hit hard. Like all contact sports, netball could no longer be played in its traditional form, but the restrictions presented additional barriers for players with disabilities.
These challenging conditions presented a unique opportunity for Netball Victoria to rethink the delivery of its inclusion and diversity programs.
Following the introduction of restrictions on team sports, Tanya Gamble, Community and Junior Development Manager from Netball Victoria contacted Naomi Linossier. Naomi is volunteer Head Coach of the Marie Little Shield Victorian team for women with an intellectual disability.
“While there were a lot of resources for mainstream athletes, Netball Victoria wanted to get something out there for those people that couldn't access the mainstream level of netball or understand the instructions associated with those programs,” Naomi says.
“We knew that people within the inclusion space, whether it be disability, language or culture, really like visuals and simple clear instructions to support people’s involvement in the sport. So, the idea came about to create flashcards with simple instructions that are very basic for all levels and that also allow for multiple levels within the flashcards.”
The flashcards assist carers and players with the structuring of physical activity while practising physical distancing. They include instructions for a range of activities including both netball skills and fitness that can be completed at home with minimal equipment.
The five-week development of the flashcards was supported by Sport and Recreation Victoria through the Together More Active grant program. Following the onset of coronavirus, there was a need to adapt and modify the inclusive project they had originally pitched, to tackle barriers to participation for disabled players.
“The biggest barriers include access to facilities and equipment, health issues which go along with their disability and ensuring they stay safe by maintaining social distance. Also, they don't necessarily have the expertise within their household – a lot of parents and carers are not originally netballers themselves – so it’s important that they have something to refer to so they can continue to practice those skills.”
Naomi acknowledges that it will be sometime before netball returns to the normal state of play which makes the delivery of these cards more important than ever.
To date, the flashcards have gone out to 180 netball associations but have also reached up to 230 organisations in the wider community through Netball Victoria’s network including the Gippsland Regional Sports Assembly, the Western Bulldogs and Western English Language School. So far, the feedback has been very positive from associations, parents and kids alike.
“The cards have been really helpful. They have allowed the athletes to participate which is something they have really missed over the past few weeks. It has allowed them to get outside and has given them some structure which is really important for a lot of players I coach,” Naomi says.
The future plan for the flashcards is to develop a more diverse suite of cards – such as the social stories made for kids on the autism spectrum, produce them professionally and sell them as a pack.
“These cards are out there now, and people can use them as often as they like. It doesn’t have to stop once we get back to training.”
For Naomi, developing the flashcards was a passion project and she is dedicated to providing more opportunities in sport for people with disabilities as an All Abilities coach.
“If clubs and organisations provide the opportunity, I think they will find becoming inclusive is one of the best things they can do for a netball club, and it’s only going to grow from here. I don’t know if I ever had this much enjoyment coaching a group of athletes in my career like I do coaching a team with disabilities. It’s getting bigger and more people are getting involved all the time. Hopefully one day it will be as big as mainstream competitions as there’s lots of opportunities for it to happen.”
Sport and Recreation Victoria has published new guidelines to support sport and recreation organisations with their return to play plans.