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Pacific Sporting Partnership to have significant impact

Netball New Zealand chief executive Jennie Wyllie believes a new Netball initiative under a sporting partnership that promotes healthy lifestyles and encourages children in the Pacific to play sports will have a significant positive impact moving forward.

A Pacific Sporting Partnership (PSP) has been established, where Netball New Zealand (NNZ) has been contracted by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and is aimed at getting more children in Pacific countries playing sports and making them healthier.

Netball’s involvement was launched in Fiji on Thursday 17 August ahead of Netball Fiji’s National Netball Championships in Suva.

Fiji is the first country where NNZ is rolling out the programme, followed closely by the Cook Islands later this year. Planning for the roll-out of the programme in Samoa and Tonga has also begun. Like in Fiji, the programmes will collaborate with the ministries of health to incorporate healthy lifestyle messaging through resources and programme delivery.

The programme will be delivered over five years to four nations in partnership with NNZ, and will see some of New Zealand’s leading sports people and administrators lending their support. New Zealand Rugby will deliver a similar rugby-based programme in the four nations.

Wyllie said their aim for the first part of the PSP project was to help build the capability of Fiji Netball to deliver the game to young people in their country, and believes the scope for change extends beyond the Netball courts.

“While the partnership aim to support both girls and boys to be active, the netball initiative is likely to have a greater focus on girls. Research has shown that if you invest in women, you invest in society,” Wyllie said.

“The education, increased earnings and human development of young women have a direct impact upon their families.”

The World Bank and the United Nations agree the most effective way to fight poverty in the world is to empower girls and women.

“When the individual girl understands her rights and believes in herself, she will improve her life and the lives of others,” she said.

In 2021, Fiji will host the Netball World Youth Cup, which will provide an incentive for young women to be active in Netball.

The PSP’s initial focus in Fiji will be in schools but the long-term outcomes include the important aspect of raising awareness of the benefits of healthy lifestyles.

The partnership also wants to grow the engagement by parents and communities for children’s sport and their access to sporting opportunities.

Wyllie said it was also about delivering sustainable results for when the programme had been fully implemented, with the partnership set to sponsor the development of the Oceania Accredited Coaching Programme

“We want to ensure that ongoing Netball activities can be supported by the National Netball Association,” she said.

“We want to target teachers and volunteers who are new to coaching and help to provide the necessary infrastructure, support and specific equipment.

“It really is about looking at the bigger picture and what it will take to see growth in all of those areas.”