It must have been 20 years since I last played it and to most people it’s a game for the playground, providing a common experience for most UK schoolgirls. Lately though it seems to be attracting more attention than ever before. According to the website of its governing body participation by adults grew by almost 24% over a four year period to April 2012. No prizes for guessing I’m talking about netball.
Netball was replaced in my affections by hockey when I hit secondary school, and I hardly gave it a thought after I finished GCSEs. Even friends who played throughout school quickly left the game after leaving school. However Netball England appear to be succeeding in their mission to modernise the game and encourage players to see it as a game for life.
Netball first crept back in to my conciousness a few months back, when an acquaintance started a local team. I heard about it and knew a couple of girls who joined but it barely registered with me. Then last month I heard a discussion about increased support and participation while listening to 5 Live in the car. Not only was it being discussed at length, the station also broadcast the first radio commentary of a UK game of netball in May. When my sister then joined the local team and tried to persuade me to do likewise I decided I ought to think about it.
Last week I went to watch the team play in the league and boy was I surprised. It wasn’t how I remembered it at all. Maybe it’s just time affecting my memory, or the perspective of an adult rather than a child, a spectator rather than participant, but the game was fast, furious and physical! And there wasn’t a pair of knicker shorts in sight. Little pleated skirts have been replaced by bright dresses in attractive colours. It reminded me slightly of the changes that were made to cricket duds a few years back, although I have no idea if that sport is enjoying the same success in growing its participation.
So, yes, I was finally tempted enough to agree, after a bit of pestering from the girls (based more on my height than any idea about my abilities on court) to joining them for a training session. Tonight was it. I am not sure I will be able to walk in the morning and I realised how poor my cardiovascular fitness is, but it was fun. I got to exercise, have a laugh with a great group of girls and will definitely be going back. Can’t be bad to have lured back someone who has studiously avoided team sports for the past couple of decades! I’d love to hear people’s experience of taking up sports they did at school again and if you haven’t but are tempted you can find out about getting Back to Netball on the England Netball website.