It combined two of my life passions – traveling to India and, of course, netball.
I have traveled to India as a tourist on eight occasions in the past and I just love the culture, color, food, spiritualism and history but most of all the people.
We share an irreverent sense of humor, a pragmatic approach to solving problems – and a love of cricket.
I have often commented that netball is the ideal sport for girls and women in India and this would be my opportunity to help influence this very outcome.
It is also fantastic for continuing the strengthening diplomatic partnership between Australia and India through sport.
There is much for Australia to gain and learn through the social and economic opportunities of partnering with India.
Thank you to DFAT and the Australian Government for directly supporting this visit as a part of their new Sports Diplomacy Strategy and the Asian Sports Partnership program.
This has all resulted in a wonderful visit with inspirational netball coaching to witness as the Goal Program Coaches go about their craft.
They are all very knowledgeable – and well trained in coaching thanks to Deb Armstrong and Netball Australia staff – about the achievements of the Diamonds and were very happy to be put through their paces in coaching participation/enhancement sessions.
I also had the opportunity to spend some time personally mentoring and speaking with the coaches about leadership, especially for women in sport. I shared my coaching journey as well as an insight into the inner sanctum of the Diamonds through showing some of our pre-match movies for inspiration and positive reinforcement of key messages.
The Goal program through the Naz Foundation is so worthwhile and is positively influencing the lives of girls and women in disadvantaged communities in New Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. It is also linking all of those regions and their own unique cultures and languages.
This forges a better understanding between the regions and assists building the identity of India as a country, through netball. How cool is that.
An interaction with one of the New Delhi coaches was truly humbling and inspirational. Mala spoke to me about the health messages of the program in English for practice for herself, she would normally speak Hindi.
Mala understands English but is not as confident to speak it, this was a big moment for her, and she was extremely nervous, but she came through with a big smile at the end. I said to her that she is much more accomplished than me, as she can speak three languages and I can only speak one.
A bigger smile ensued.
Another large part of their responsibilities is that the coaches must educate the community they work in with health and life skills education information targeted at adolescent girls specifically.
This is also conducted at the tournament that I attended where the coaches share the education provided with the mothers of the participants, particularly around personal safety, hygiene and accessing health and safety resources to assist when required.
In speaking with the mothers, it was very clear that they were incredibly proud of their daughters and they had noticed a whole range of changes in their confidence and knowledge following participation in the program.
The New Delhi female police officers were on hand to assist as well.
It was so wonderful to watch the tournament in progress, with the mothers, and some fathers, watching their daughters participate.
It reminded me of Australia on any Saturday morning down at the netball courts, hundreds of girls playing the game they love in a safe environment.
This is the power of sport in its purest form, engaging with communities to educate and improve social well-being, health and fitness.
The empowerment and leadership skills of the girls, women and coaches in this program is a key aspect and it was very evident to observe in action on this visit.
This is a very real and powerful outcome and will change lives.
Thank you to the Naz Foundation and the Goal Program for hosting me so thoughtfully and especially to Olivia, whom has guided the development of the netball program masterfully.
I was truly inspired to witness what has been achieved for these women and girls in such different circumstances to our own, through our wonderful shared sport of netball.