Two years ago, St Leonard’s All Abilities program only had two players. Fast-forward to 2019, and their All Abilities program is now a full team of ‘Stars’ who have found their passion for sport.
St Leonard’s Netball Club is located in the Waverley area and has approximately 110 players that train and play at Waverley Netball Centre. Almost two years ago, St Leonard’s coach Naomi Linossier commenced an All Abilities program, changing the pathway of the club.
As a player, coach and an active member on the St Leonard’s committee, Naomi Linossier was one of six to start up the All Abilities team and program. After advertising in various schools, their newsletter and on social media platforms, the program’s participation numbers grew over 2017 and 2018.
“We struggled and only had about two or three players for our first six months.” Naomi said.
“We just kept pushing through and it’s because of the commitment of our team of six that All Abilities has blossomed into the program it is today.”
Waverley City Netball Association has supported St Leonard’s in running a game on a Saturday so that the All Abilities “Stars” team are included in the Saturday competition. With now over 20 All Abilities players, ranging from 11 to 21-year-olds, St Leonard’s plan is to grow their mission even further.
“You’ve got your little ones and then your 6’5 boys, so there is that variety of skills but also personality.
“It’s a lovely group of players and athletes who just enjoy playing netball, no matter what that means to them. Whether it’s to meet new people or to get into another competition, they just remind you how good it is to be a part of a team. They grow so much, even in terms of just high-fiving each other or saying hello.
“It’s just about providing an opportunity for those who maybe struggle in the mainstream competition to be able to play netball, and for some of them to even play sport for the first time. It’s really important that those with disabilities still receive the same opportunities to engage with their love of sport.”
Fortunately for St Leonard’s All Abilities program, they have been able to train at the external courts at Waverley Night Netball Centre on Sunday mornings at no cost. They have also received financial support from Waverley City Netball Association to fund uniforms for players. In May of this year, Waverley Night Netball Centre offered to support the program by using the internal courts on Sunday mornings at no cost, encouraging players and making them feel included in playing netball.
According to Naomi, the support received from Waverley Night Netball Association is astounding and a true testament to their values and their encouraging commitment towards community netball.
“They have both been really great. Our aim is to keep it a low-cost program so their assistance goes quite a long way.
“We were training outside on a Sunday before Waverley Night said they would open the centre for us. For anyone who has worked with people with a disability will understand, moving inside removed a lot of distractions and instantly strengthened our program. For them to allow that at no cost is amazing.”
Despite coming so far as a program, Naomi says she still has big plans for her future ‘Stars’.
“We’ve started trying to integrate the ‘Stars’ team into our Saturday competition so that it’s not an extra thing, it’s not different, it’s just part of St Leonard’s. We also have our Saturday players who come to help train the Sunday team to create those partnerships,
“The hope is down the track we will have ‘Stars’ playing in our mainstream competition so that we’re all together. We want to grow this program as big as it needs to get for everyone to be enjoying their sport through netball.”
If there’s one thing Naomi hopes people think about after hearing about St Leonard’s All Abilities Program, it’s that anyone can become a ‘Star’.
“It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done and I feel anyone can ever do. That’s why we encourage anyone and everyone to get involved with these athletes.
“Seeing that improvement, it’s huge. It’s why you get involved and why you stay involved and makes all of your effort more than worthwhile.”
St Leonard’s All Abilities Program details and updates can be found here.