Protecting “Generation Z” and the Future of Netball

I shared some of my well-being research on LinkedIn. It’s a topic we are continuing to invest our time and resources towards, as it’s need has never been greater.

If a problem feels like it’s too big to deal with by yourself, then look to spread the load and share your concerns with someone close to you. The old saying of “a problem halved is a problem solved” is a great old saying for a reason….because it’s true. We’re stronger together, and the worry you can remove from your life by sharing will only reward your soul and strengthen your ties with others.

Let’s stay positive, and be conscious of those that might need some help, but aren’t great asking for it. Make it easy for them.

Here is that original post on LinkedIn

Protecting “Generation Z” and the Future of Netball

Last week, Suncorp Super Netball released their study into Australian teenage girls’ attitudes towards resuming sport after the coronavirus pandemic has revealed some disheartening results. I assume the results discovered in their article will likely apply to other Netball loving nations too.

Survey results

From 1,000 girls interviewed between 11 and 17:

60% said “nothing could be done” to entice them back into team sports after the pandemic.
25% revealed that they had no intention of returning to sport whatsoever, having “simply lost interest”.
91% reporting they had swapped the training ground for technology.
63% reporting increased social media use.

What is means for the future of Netball?

Coronavirus has been a once-in-a-hundred-year event, stopping the world unlike we have ever seen before. For those of us that love Sports and Entertainment, we have been among the harshest hit – restricted and sometimes no crowds, seasons cancelled, no live concerts and theatre, no travel and lack of physical connection to our friends and family. Since March 2020, it is fair to say it’s been a phycological experiment that will no doubt be remembered for generations to come. Within my universe, I feel that Netball, and all sporting federations, teams and schools around the world need to look deeper into understanding our young female leaders and communities right now. Those learnings should be adopted into action plans now to ensure that mental health and wellness is among the highest priorities to support the future of the sport from a participation and viewership perspective.

From this alarming report, the team at NETFIT have improved our existing wellness support assets and built them out to include professional learning surveys in all of our online programs to ensure that we better understand the needs and challenges from our netball community. I look forward to keeping you updated from our learnings and our wellbeing matrix development.

Lesson 1. Mental Health and Wellness comes first for Generation Z

Nearly 85% of young girls involved in our weekly NETFIT ISO Academies have enjoyed our conversations, routines and in-depth support we provide focused on “Wellness”. I will be writing more about this topic in the coming weeks.

It’s critical to remember for the C-Level decision makers across Sports, Fitness and Entertainment is that the emerging “Generation Z” is a generation that is very different to the likes that we’ve seen before, as detailed below:[1]

Gen Z Birth Years: 1995 to 2019
Currently Aged: 5 to 25
Other Nicknames: iGeneration, Post-millennials, Homeland Generation
Generation Size: Roughly 25% of the population

Media Consumption: The average Gen Zer received their first mobile phone at age 10.3 years. Many of them grew up playing with their parents’ mobile phones or tablets. They have grown up in a hyper-connected world and the smartphone is their preferred method of communication. On average, they spend 3 hours a day on their mobile device.

Banking Habits: This generation has seen the struggle of Millennials and has adopted a more fiscally conservative approach. They want to avoid debt and appreciate accounts or services that aid in that Endeavor. Debit cards top their priority list followed by mobile banking. Over 50% have not entered a bank branch in at least 3 months (prior to COVID restrictions).

Shaping Events: Smartphones, social media, never knowing a country not at war, and seeing the financial struggles of their parents (Gen X).

What’s next on Gen Z’s financial horizon: Learning about personal finance. They have a strong appetite for financial education and are opening savings accounts at younger ages than prior generations.

Another useful illustration is the priorities of Generation Z compared to their predecessors, the Millennial.

Need to Adapt: Olympics case study

Within the world of sports, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a great example of an institution that has recognized the power of this Generation Z demographic. Five new sports have been added to the Tokyo Games coming up in 2020. They are baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing. Esports will join at the Paris 2024 Olympics. Why? With a majority of TV and broadcast viewers over the age of 40 years old, the structural changes is exactly what the sports pinnacle needed to ensure that younger generations will continue to be interested in watching:

“Let’s face it: The Olympics is old. The median age of U.S. viewers for the 2008 Beijing Olympics was 47, rising to 48 for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. More recent numbers from Rio Olympics show that, in comparison to London Olympics, there has been a 30 percent drop in TV viewers between the ages of 18 and 34”[2]

Netball finds itself in a similar predicament to the Olympics re-designing it’s youth appeal. We need to create new digital communities and new social media-savvy ways to connect with Generation Y and Z.

“Netball in Australia attracts an audience of nearly 1.5 million TV viewers and the ability to commence the season despite the disruption caused by COVID-19 presents a unique opportunity to attract new eyeballs to one of the country’s most widely played team sports. Unsurprisingly, those most likely to play #Netball tend to be younger – over three quarters of all players are aged under 35. However, this situation is reversed when it comes to watching Netball on TV – over three-quarters are aged over 35”
— CEO Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine[3]

Netball 3.0: Inclusiveness & Digital-First

Within our world of Netball, Generation Z are more global, more influenced, fast moving, eager to stand out and “experience seeking” than ever before. For Netball decision makers and government leaders, a large part of our Mental Health and Wellness focus for Netball for Generation Z needs to ensure:

We must make our Sports and Netball experiences digital (e.g. mobile phone)
We must have safe digital communities that allow young females to share and feel included
We must link young audiences to travel and adventure – it’s among their highest priorities.
We create excellent role models
We must authentically provide a multitude of digital community tools and pathways that allow the user to customised support (i.e. no one-sized fits all)
We need to find ways to connect the online world (social media) with the real physical world it revolves
Within our NETFIT Netball family, this is why we believe that every young girl can have a sense of belonging in a digital world.

Our core community is young females that love their game
We provide on-demand and an exciting brand of physical classes that keep the body active, skilled & fun.
We provide weekly wellness and mental health seminars and live chats
We provide in-school physical training courses, bootcamps and virtual ISO Academies in Australia, UK, New Zealand, South Africa and across netballing countries in Asia
We have built programs for a variety of ages, lead by relevant instructors, coaches and experts that have skill sets specific to the targeted demographic.
We will soon be announcing some major events that will re-define the Netball landscape.
Final thoughts

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more about how we can build a future world of Netball through a more digital and inclusive of community lead by Generation Z. I thank Suncorp Super Netball for sharing the results of their important industry research of the impact of coronavirus on young female sports participation. Corporate leadership helps society identify the need for proactive policies that listen and respond in new and innovative ways for Generation Z leaders.

Take care and keep sparking it up.


Sarah Wall is CEO and Founder of NETFIT, the world’s largest digital community for Netballers in 23 countries. Learn more by visiting our website or by downloading the NETFIT App