The Aldgate Netball Club is now offering members an alternative uniform – singlet and shorts instead of the traditional dress. This initiative exemplifies what it takes to be a ‘Club of the Future’ at the heart of the community, creating an inclusive and family friendly environment for all. To find out more how this idea came to life, we spoke to Fiona Crowe who is on the board of the Aldgate Netball Club.

How did this idea come about?

Members of the club committee had seen boys participating at other clubs and wanted to capture that market for growth of club members. The committee also knew there was research demonstrating the uniform can be a deterrent to netball participation by women and girls.

The club had also made the decision to change their uniform provider meaning the purchasing of uniforms was now entirely completed through an online platform. This change also had benefits for a volunteer who was looking to walk away from their role at the netball club as she was storing all the uniforms in her house. With the new uniform provider taking on the storage responsibilities, this volunteer became re-invested with their work for the club.

Initially the committee discussed the uniform as an option for boys, however the question was raised, “Why can’t girls wear this too?” The attitude of the Aldgate Netball Club was to be ahead of a possible issue and be prepared to give girls an alternative uniform option.  This could also help older generations who are self-conscious to remain playing the game or even come back to playing.

What challenges or issues is it designed to address?

The uniform initiative is designed to address the demand of boys wanting to participate in netball and also girls and women who are put off playing because of the dress uniform option.

What barriers or challenges did you come across in implementing this idea?

Some push back was expected from the netball traditionalists who wanted to maintain the existing netball dress. The committee brainstormed any challenges and objections but were able to show that having a new option would not stop people from representing the club.

The committee determined it was essential that the uniform look the same and that there wasn’t a significant difference in the two options so players could wear either and play on the same teams.

The club spent time designing the uniform and creating a case study to present the idea and receive association approval.

Timing was also a challenge as the approval from Hill Netball Association was received after the season’s trials had taken place, which is typically when the uniforms are purchased. Ideally the uniform would have been available much sooner to be worn in the current season, but the club is sure that next season there will be many players representing Aldgate in the singlet and shorts.

What has been the reaction (from club members and broader)?

Across the board the members have loved the idea and are very proud of their club for being the first to offer a uniform option to players. Many have asked why this wasn’t in place before. The club has even had feedback that if this was an option in past seasons, some players would have been more likely to return to play.

Members love that the club is thinking of others and working to get more people involved. The support has been very clear from the community with the social media release receiving great reactions and being shared by hundreds of members to spread the accomplishments of the club.

ABC Adelaide also posted on their social media accounts showing their support of the innovation.

Do you think this initiative could be easily picked up by other clubs and in different sports?

Yes - having uniforms for sale through an online purchase is a smart and easy service to set up. Offering inclusive uniforms to all demographics is not difficult; you just need to start the process.

Any foreseeable challenges ahead?

No - there is nothing ahead that will challenge the strategy now that it has been implemented. By having the alternative option, people of all ages/genders/values will feel more welcome and inspired to play.

Any advice for other clubs seeking to implement this?

Be bold and be proactive. Do not wait for someone to have an issue, be ready with an option if/when someone makes a request.

Is there a next step or are you looking to grow this further?

Due to the timing of the release, no one is wearing the new design in the current season. The next step of this is to advertise the option at the beginning of trials for the next season and get players feeling comfortable in their uniforms, whichever option they choose to wear.

It is our job to break down the barriers and get more people on the court. Along with the uniforms, the committee is looking to identify any other barriers that are keeping people from participating and overcoming them so more people can play the game.

Has the initiative supported an increase in members, volunteers or revenue?

It is too soon to tell if the uniform options will create an increase in membership but based on the feedback from social media, the club is expecting to see an increase of members which will provide an increase in revenue and ideally in volunteers too. The next season will be a clear indicator of whether this strategy has affected numbers at the club.

Is there anything you would do differently?

The only change the committee would make is to get the process started earlier. By doing this, the impact of the uniform could have taken place immediately. The process of changing by-laws or constitutions can take some time so depending on the association or league that a club participates in, it pays to start conversations early.