The Los Angeles Waves Netball Club – yes, LA – is on a mission to bring the sport of netball to Americans and give expats from all around the world a chance to continue playing their favourite sport.
The Inner Sanctum sat down with President Kelly MacGaunn, Treasurer Kristy Jones and Assistant Coach, and long-time Waves club member, Carey Dunlop to talk all things netball in the US of A.
Netball in the US! How many Americans are playing? How many expats and where from?
Kelly: Yes, that is correct. The Los Angeles Waves Netball Club was founded in 2002.
Our club currently has three Americans rostered on the team, including me. We have expats from Australia, Canada, England, Hong Kong, Jamaica, New Zealand, Samoa, Singapore, as well as South Africa.
Throughout the years we have had teammates from Ireland, Fiji, Gibraltar, Nigeria, Seychelles, Scotland, Wales, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Philippines.
The LA Waves take pride in promoting participation in netball in Los Angeles as an all-inclusive sport for people of all ages and abilities.
What is the reaction from Americans when it comes to netball?
Kristy: Confusion on multiple levels. 1. Most Americans, when they see us playing netball, ask, “What happened to the backboard?” because they see the goal post and assume we are playing basketball. 2. Because they don’t understand the different expat accents, the word comes across as “nipple,” so there’s usually a double take. A great icebreaker with potential new players, though!
What are the long term goals of the Waves? Is there hope to see an American side qualify for the World Cup? Or is this about generating interest in the sport?
Carey: Yes, generating interest in the sport. Netball is an emerging sport in the USA. It takes work to get the message out to Americans who love their basketball and aren’t very exposed to international sports.
We’re doing what we can to offer netball to our local community and give our players every chance to grow their skills, compete and enjoy the sport they love. We’ve run kids’ clinics, introduced netball into the PE curriculum of a local school, had exhibition matches at NBA and WNBA games in LA and New York. We even had the Australian and New Zealand Consul Generals play against each other during our International Day tournament, where our netballers play for their country of origin (NZ won that contest).
It’s been challenging, but we love it. Every little bit of promotion — like contributing to this article — raises awareness and helps the cause of developing netball in Los Angeles.
What are the positives about being a US based netball club?
Kelly: The endless possibilities of growing the sport.
We’re lucky enough to have the support of the Los Angeles County Parks and Rec, who have kindly helped bring our two multipurpose courts to fruition here at Victoria Park in Carson. They’ve been true champions of the sport and our club.
We’re the only netball club in the USA with two standard side-by-side multipurpose netball courts and we’ve now added two additional side-by-side pop-up courts, which will allow for more clubs to join us for our tournaments.
Another positive of being a US-based netball club is that we’re open to all players, any skill level, and encourage those who have not heard of the sport before to play with us.
We cater to Ladies, Mixed, and Men’s netball teams, and look to grow our netball community through sponsorships and donations, as we’re a nonprofit.
Some of our players travel and compete at netball tournaments all over the USA, while others prefer to stay local and just have a runaround. The Waves offers those social players the chance to get fit, improve their netball skills and make new friends.
The Waves offers coaching for budding umpires. We encourage our players to have a go at umpiring, so that players improve their knowledge of the game and the club has a pool of accredited umpires.
Through our partnership with the City of Los Angeles Parks and Rec Department we host up to four free kids’ clinics throughout the year to help grow the sport locally, and our U18 program on the club level, while also providing another sport option to the young people in our community.
Netball is a huge phenomenon internationally (20 million players can’t be wrong!). Our aim is to bring that same enthusiasm for netball to Los Angeles.
Kelly: Trying to accomplish everything as responded in the last question in a country that is unfamiliar with the sport. Ha ha!
Have the Waves produced any notable talents to head overseas?
Kelly: Although I wouldn’t say that we produced any notable talents to head overseas, we have hosted notable talents, such as Kim Green, Paula Griffin, Kayla Johnson (Cullen), Sarah Wall, and Vicki Wilson.
COVID. It stopped netball in the UK. It hampered us in Australia. How have you fared in the face of this?
Kelly: We have unfortunately not been able to practice or play since March, and as I type this, the City of Los Angeles’ COVD-19 cases have heightened.
So, what’s a brief history of your past few seasons?
Kelly: We actually play netball year-round, not seasonally. For the most part, we play every Saturday morning between 8-11am and Wednesday evenings from 7-9pm in Carson at Victoria Park.
In addition to the recreational netball we play at drop-in, we regularly compete in tournaments around North America, as well as annual competitions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, and Whistler. We have traveled within the US for tournaments as well. The cities included Dallas, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Miami, New Orleans, and Orlando!
We have hosted our annual LA LA LAND open and mixed tournament for the past 14 years, with teams coming from near and far around the world. We’ve had Sarah Wall and Kimmy Green from NETFIT join us, as well as teams from Australia, Canada, and Fiji.
How can people play with the Waves?
Kelly: We’re always looking for new players. Our club promotes netball in the Los Angeles community by offering players of all abilities the opportunity to develop their skills, fitness and match play within a fun, friendly and inclusive environment.
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