Empowering female role models in Nepal


Netball Queensland’s Sarah Cooper, Head Coach for Regional Development Programs in the Suncoast Region, is this week in Nepal, as part of Netball Australia’s One Netball Asia initiative under the Australian Government’s Asian Sports Partnerships.  

“After five years away from Vanuatu, I had forgotten what it was like to be hot and sticky all of the time. As soon as I stepped out of the plane in Kathmandu and the heat rushed at me, all of the memories came flooding back. I passed Immigration, grabbed my luggage and found my ride to the guest house. The first two tips my driver gave me were, don’t drink the water and always carry a flash light. When asked why, he said it was due to the power being turned off for eight hours each day, but never at the same time in the day; so if you are in an elevator when the power goes out, you will need the torch to see!

Anywhere you look, the damage from the earthquake in 2015 is obvious. There are buildings cracked or with pieces missing, walls held up by bamboo poles and uninhabitable homes and shops everywhere. Since the earthquake there has been no netball at all in Nepal. The National players and coach, and the National Federation are very passionate about the game and are so enthusiastic to get netball back up and running.

The first priority of the Nepal Netball Association is to get the game into schools and the Masters of Education students who are attending the course, are they key to making that happen. They are the ones who will lead the charge in developing the new generation of netball players.

The language barrier initially proved to be a challenge, however the National captain and coach have been such a wonderful help with translation. It is amazing how a thumbs up is a universal sign for job well done! The participants are picking up the game very quickly and are assisting each other every step of the way.

Over the week we are covering all aspects of the game including, skill development, coaching and umpiring. The order of the program has changed a number of times due to unforeseen events, but we just go with the flow – as I explained to the participants, coaches have to be adaptable and so this is just an opportunity to practice that skill.

After the first day was finished, thoughts turned to how to get me back to the hotel. The President who had driven me in the morning had left earlier, so I was asked if I was prepared to go on the back of a bike. I am always up for new experiences and was happy to give it a go – which I think surprised most of them when I said yes! As we were driving, it was pointed out that foreigners don’t normally ride on bikes which is why people were staring at me.  I hadn’t really noticed as I was too busy looking at everything around me – some of which was heartbreaking as we passed through the slum areas. The return journey was certainly quicker on the bike and I only had to close my eyes a couple of times as we sped through the streets, weaving between traffic and pedestrians.

Nepal is a lovely country and I have been so welcomed here, not only for my netball knowledge but as a visitor in general. Holisha, the National Captain, took me out for local food one evening and I have to say the momos (dumplings) are amazing! Something everyone must try if they get the opportunity to come to Nepal. The Nepal Netball Association have a clear vision of how to move forward and I feel very privileged to have been able to assist them in a small way.”

Sarah holds an Advanced Coaching Accreditation and has previously spent a year volunteering with Vanuatu Netball in 2011. She will be running a series of coaching clinics for the Nepal Netball Association to provide them with the skills to be able to run quality, inclusive netball programs in schools and to train more coaches across the country. 

This training will be followed up with sessions on leadership, to position Nepal’s National Netball Team players and federation representatives as strong female role models in their communities and to equip them with the skills to establish inclusive community netball clubs that provide safe spaces for girls to connect and develop skills. Workshops will also link the Nepal Netball Association with local NGOs to engage vulnerable women and girls throughout the country in netball activities that promote women’s empowerment and improved physical and mental wellbeing.