The Back to Netball scheme has been working hard to change the image of netball and reintroduce as many women as possible to the benefits of playing in a team. It has become a nationwide phenomenon and is now the most popular female team sport in the country. Since the scheme was set up in 2010 over 40, 000 women have signed up. There are leagues, local teams, and hundreds more women who show up on an ad hoc basis and get stuck in. All are welcome, with a wide variety of ages and abilities accounted for. A squad of volunteer coaches – including several members of the England Ladies netball team – train women of all ages and abilities at sports centres across the country.
Like many who start going to these sessions, I hadn’t been near a netball court since secondary school. It had been ages since I had practised my chest pass and as the session commenced I was quickly reminded why I never played Goal Shooter: I couldn’t get a ball in the hoop if it fell into my lap. We began with a warm up and a few skills lessons led by a very lovely and relaxed member of the England Ladies netball team. The other ladies were competitive but not aggressive, no one held back but no-one ever seemed to take it too seriously. If I was confused or rubbish (which happened often) the teacher and my fellow netballers would offer to explain. We then moved in to marking each other, defending, and pivoting. We finished with a twenty minute five-a-side game, which left me pretty exhausted! After the game, we joined in with a match in the neighbouring court that was a bit short of players.
By the end of the evening I totally understood why the scheme has been so successful. The enthusiasm and friendliness of the players was palpable and infectious. I will take away from the experience a sense of the camaraderie and the genuinely supportive atmosphere. The scheme works well for women with busy lives, jobs and child commitments to juggle as matches and sessions are completely flexible, and there is no pressure to commit to the same time or team every week. There seemed to be a constant supply of people who wanted to play and would join in last minute. If you wanted to take it more seriously there is scope for that, as the scheme also helps to set up leagues and support teams who want to play regularly. I will definitely go back at some point, but I’ll be steering well clear of the Goal Shooter bib.
Sessions take place across the UK. To find your nearest program visit the Back to Netball website.
Anna has been trying out a bunch of new and alternative fitness classes recently. Check out her foray into MC Hammer dancing. and