An 11 year-old boy wants to be allowed to continue playing netball, even though the sport’s association has a blanket ban on boys from the age of 12.
Josh Vanderzalm has been playing netball for the past three years, but Netball Association rules state that when he turns 12 in a few weeks time, he can no longer play, because from that age, boys are considered too big and strong to play with girls.
“I’m not rough at all,” Josh told News Limited. ”I’m not like that and people need to know that boys aren’t like that.”
Told that he was too small and gentle for basketball, Josh has been playing wing and goal attack for the Wildcats Netball Club, which is part of the premiere female netball league, in the Adelaide Metropolitan Netball Division.
Netball SA policies state that he won’t be able to play competitive netball until he turns 16, when he qualifies to compete in the men’s competition.
Josh’s mum Robyn told News Limited that the gender policy should be reviewed, because not all boys develop at the same rate or in the same way.
“It’s a real shame because he’s not the biggest, strongest or most aggressive player on the court, and he really loves the sport,” she said.
Josh’s coach Tina Coad said it was sad Josh won’t be able to continue playing the sport that he loves.
“There is a huge void of opportunity for boys aged between 12 and 16 to play netball,” she said. “I am hopeful that in the future there will be pathways, but that doesn’t help boys like Josh who want to play the sport they are passionate about.”
Netball SA said in a statement that it will not be reviewing its gender policy.
“Once boys, or persons who identify as male, are over the age of 12, the decision is based on the disparity of size and strength, which can impact the outcome of the game and create an unfair advantage,” the statement read.
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims, said not-for-profit clubs and associations are exempt from discrimination laws.
“They are not employers, they are not providing goods and services, and they are not providing accommodation, and they have a specific exemption under the law, so these sorts of associations can choose who they want to let in and who they don’t,” he said.
“The idea behind the exemption is to allow minority groups to get together with like-minded people, to offer membership and support to each other.
“In this case though, I think Netball SA’s rules are a little questionable – firstly they invite and encourage young boys to play and enjoy their game, but then when they turn 12, they tell them, ‘oh sorry, even though you’ve grown to really enjoy it, and we’ve encouraged you to enjoy it, now you can’t play anymore’ – that hardly seems fair.
“And when it comes to issues of size and strength, well just setting an arbitrary age isn’t necessarily the best measure – because everyone develops differently, and at different times, and at the age of 12, Josh is still a little fella, and I would bet some of his female teammates are bigger and stronger than he is.
“Maybe they need to have some other form of assessment that takes into account a person’s physical development.”
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