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The new normal: A mixed gender netball tournament for children in India

Copyrights: Pro Sport Development

The new normal: A mixed gender netball tournament for children in India

A successful Netball Tournament organized by Pro Sport Development in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, with support from Tata Trusts, highlighted the incredible potential for mixed gender sports.

Mixed-gender sports are on the rise. Earlier this year it was announced that the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will feature 18 mixed gender events, double the number from Rio 2016, in fields such as Athletics, Judo and Table Tennis.

The Community Sports Program in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, implemented by Pro Sport Development (PSD) and supported by Tata Trusts, has made mixed gendered games central to its aims. And last Saturday, PSD hosted its third event of this year’s program, a mixed gendered netball tournament.

The event was attended by 156 children between the ages of 11 and 14 years from six of the schools on the program, with 77 girls and 79 boys forming 16 teams.

In the group stages, some of the teams relied heavily on their male team members, with boys only passing to boys. However, as those teams began losing to teams that successfully implemented a gender mix, they realised it was not a viable strategy to ignore more than half of your team and still hope to win.

After a very competitive group stage, interestingly all six schools ended up with at least one team in the quarter-final stage, which helped to keep all of the children at the tournament engrossed in the knockout stages.

Saraswati Sishu Mandir (SSM), a school that has been on the Community Sports Program for more than a year, only sent two teams but both teams made it to at least the semi-final.

All four teams in the semi-finals came from the three schools that have been on the program for more than a year. It was not due to any disparity in talent that these teams made the semis. Instead, thanks to the lessons imparted by the Community Sports Program, the children from these schools played with great teamwork as well as communication and were among the best to seamlessly incorporate boys and girls into the mixed gender teams.

In the end, it was one of the teams from SSM, team Jaguar, that emerged victorious, with Sushree Subhashree Raz shooting the winning points in extra-time after an enthralling, back-and-forth final to defeat the Vivekananda Siksha Kendra (Dum Duma) team Warriors 8-7.

After the final, the captain of the Jaguars, 15-year-old boy Saroj Kumar Maharana, said:

We are happy that we won; we coordinated well and followed rules. But it was pure luck at the end in breaking the tie.”

The Warriors were distraught after losing such a close game but had played exceptionally well throughout the tournament. Dealing with loss is one of many life lessons best learned through sports and PSD coaches who encourage the participants to focus on the positives from their performance no matter if it was a win or lose.

This attitude was best exemplified by Santoshi Maharana, a 13-year-old girl from Beena Bharati Vidya Mandira school, who said, "In sport, winning and losing is not a big thing. We learned a lot from our participation in the event and these lessons learned will help us to win next time around."

Following the tournament, the prizes were handed out by guests Anibrata Biswas, Senior General Manager at Tata Trusts, Jagadananda, Mentor & Founder of CYSD (Centre for Youth & Social Development) and Nandita Bhatt, Senior Programme Manager, Martha Farrell Foundation.

“There was electrifying energy,” said Nandita Bhatt. “Mixed gender teams are the new normal - defined by the young girls and boys themselves – and all school sports programs should learn from this.”

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Thursday, November 23, 2017 - 09:44

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