Played by over 20 million people in more than 70 countries, netball is now one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S, having been introduced to core USA education curriculums. It’s a fast paced, exciting team sport which has a lot in common with basketball, although there are seven players per team and the rules and equipment used differ slightly.
Netball is predominantly played by women and girls (it was originally known as ‘women’s basketball’) and as well as offering fitness benefits it is generally a very social sport and a great way to build confidence and meet new people while getting fit at the same time.
About the game
Two teams of seven players compete on a rectangular court. Each team has three attackers, three defenders and a center who is the ‘all-rounder’. The aim is simply to score more goals than the opposing team. Only two players from each team (the goal shooter and the goal attack) can score goals by shooting the ball through a 10-feet high hoop – and unlike basketball, there is no backboard. Typically a game consists of four quarters of 15 minutes each, although sometimes games can be shorter.
What are the benefits of playing netball?
The great thing about netball is that it’s inclusive, and even if your fitness level is low at the moment there should be a position to suit you. Some positions require much more running than others – for instance, the center can cover the whole court apart from the goal circle, so it will be required to spend the majority of the game running (or sprinting). The goal shooter and goal keeper, instead, can only cover a third of the court, making those positions more about tactics than speed and fitness, and hence suitable to people who are building up their cardiovascular fitness.
It’s affordable. No special clothing is required other than a good pair of running shoes – preferably well padded and with plenty of room for your toes (the sudden stopping can result in black toenails if you're shoes don't give your toes some wiggle room!). If you start to play competitively in a league, you may have to wear a team uniform (most players wear dresses or skirts and shirts), but these are generally inexpensive.
It builds strength and tones muscles. The jumps and short sharp sprints tone calves, quads and glutes, whilst passing the ball across court strengthens arm muscles. It is a high impact sport though, so it’s really important to warm up properly. If you’re especially injury prone you might want to check your health insurance policy covers you for physiotherapy!
It requires team work – with just seven players in each team, everyone needs to get involved to move the ball down the court towards the goal circle where a goal can be scored. If the opposing team has the ball, everyone must work together to defend and try to win it back. Players often talk to each other whilst in play to offer encouragement or to ask for the ball. The other great thing about playing team sports is that often, the thought of letting your team down means that you won’t be tempted to skip training or games.
Hand-eye coordination will be improved through passing, catching, and shooting.
It’s a non-contact sport – so no need to worry about being ‘roughed up’ by a bigger, stronger player. Speed, accuracy and the ability to 'read the game' matter much more than height or weight.
How many calories will I burn playing netball?
Netball is dynamic and burns lots of calories. The nature of the game means that there is a lot of variety in the movements required of the players. Short sprints, dodges, spins, jumps, quick changes in direction and sudden stops mean that a game of netball naturally becomes almost like interval training. You can expect to burn around 450 calories per hour, although that will vary depending on what position you play in – some will burn more, others less.
How can I find a team?
Visit the Netball America site to find out where your nearest team is.
Image courtesy of Nottingham Trent University.
Sinead Miller writes articles on health, fitness and nutrition and manages health insurance site WebDoctor.