A Brief History of Netball

In this article we will attempt to give a brief summary of the history of the game of netball. We’re not trying to be comprehensive in our coverage, though we do try and ensure that the facts we use are verified before publication. If you have any comments on the content this or any other article you find on the NetballFun site, then please contact us.

The inaugural introduction of netball for the sporting pleasure of the general public happened in 1891 in America. It was initially considered to be a nothing but a variant of basketball, and became known as “women’s basketball”: naming any game “women’s [insert any game]” in modern and oppressively politically correct days would most likely see the perpetrator shot – times were clearly simpler in 1891.

American academic staff visiting England sought to teach the locals a thing or two about sport, and one of the ways they found to do this was to nail two bins onto two facing walls, and throw balls at them. One happy consequence of this teaching was that the ladies of England were able to engage in women’s basketball, though with rules (and equipment) that would likely not be recognised by today’s cosmopolitan netball community. England wholeheartedly embraced the game and standardised rules were formulated by the first governing body.

Essential netball equipment:

The standardisation and generally acceptance of the game saw many teams begin to form – with this growth in numbers came an inevitable formation of leagues to provide eager competition for netball enthusiasts. By 1902 the standardised English rules were being exported to many countries who had by now begun show an interest in the sport. The irony of the use of English netball rules in America cannot be overlooked.

The infusion of netball into just about every society and country throughout the world has continued unchecked since. In 1995 netball was recognised as an Olympic sport and, the irony continuing, the USA managed to get around to sending its first team to the World Championships (held, of course, in England).

Politically (in)correct attitudes meant that Men generally didn’t play netball – why should they when they would could demonstrate their virility playing basketball…? In recent years the affect of this slightly old-fashioned attitude has subsided, and men can now happily play in their own games and leagues, and even in mixed matches. Pleated skirt optional

Players’ Court Positions

Netball is one of only a few sports in which a players’ position determines where on the playing arena he is allowed to be active. In order to facilitate the understanding of this area of the rules, we have produced a descriptive table and an interactive diagram [currently disabled - sorry! It will be back.], both of which clearly show the areas of court accessible by the different positions.


Table detailing the permitted playing areas for the different position

Position Abbreviation Permitted Playing Area Opposing Player
Goal Shooter GS Attacking third of the court, including the shooting circle Goal Keeper
Goal Attack GA Center and attacking thirds, including the shooting circle Goal Defense
Wing Attack WA Center and attacking thirds, but not the shooting circle Wing Defense
Center C Everwhere except shooting circles Center
Wing Defense WD Center and defensive thirds, but not the shooting circle Wing Attack
Goal Defense GD Center and defensive thirds, including the shooting circle Goal Attack
Goal Keeper GK Defensive third of the court, including the shooting circle Goal Shooter

The Rules of Netball: A Digest

Netball is a fast, skilful team game based on running, jumping, throwing and catching. Teams may include up to 12 players but only 7 may take the court at any one time.Each player has a playing position determined by the areas on the court where they may move. The playing positions are shown by identification letters worn above the waist positioned on both the front and the back of the player. Those positions are GS, GA, WA, C, WD, GD and GK – we have prepared a table giving more details on each of the positions.

The major aim of the game is to score as many goals as is possible from within an area called the Goal Circle, which is a semi-circle centred on the goal line and measuring 4.9 metres in radius. Only two players from each team may score goals, these being the Goal Attack and Goal Shooter.

Officials

The omnipotent Match Officials are the two umpires, two scorers and two timekeepers.

Equipment

The Ball is made of rubber, leather or similar material, weighs 400 – 450g, and measures 690 – 710mm in circumference.

The Court is 30.5 metres long and 15.25 metres wide; it is divided into thirds. The Center circle has a diameter of 0.9 metres and the two goal circles are both semi-circles measuring 4.9 metres in radius.

All lines are part of the court (i.e. a bounce on the line is “in”) and measure 50mm in width.

The Goal Posts are placed mid point of each goal line and measure 3.05 metres (10 feet) in height. The goal rings have an internal diameter of 380mm (15 inches). The goal ring projects horizontally from the post on a single attachment measuring 150mm (6 inches) in length.

Playing Time

A game consists of 4 x 15 minute quarters with an interval of 3 minutes between the first and second, and the third and fourth quarters and a 5 minute half time interval. Up to 2 minutes of additional time are allowed for each injury.

The Rules of Play

The Rules may be placed into two generic groups, those which infringe only a rule of play and are called minor rules. Those which infringe the rights of an opponent are called major rules.

The minor rules, such as “stepping”, “breaking”, “over a third”, “held ball” and “offside” are all penalised with a free pass to the opposing team. The major rules, consistign mainly of intimidation, contact, obstruction and discipline are all penalised with a penalty pass or penalty pass or shot to the opposing team. On infringing a major rule, the guilty offender must stand out of play until the ball has left the thrower’s hands.

Netball Skills – Shooting

Introduction

In Netball, shooting is arguably the most important aspect of the game. Without it, all netball games would end as 0-0 ties, so let’s agree that it is, to some degree, essential to the functioning of the sport.

Only those players that are allowed to stand in their attacking goal circle may attempt to score (see our summary of netball positions – this means only the Goal Scorer (GS) and Goal Attack (GA). Consequently, it’s important that your very best shooters are placed in these positions.

Once the shooter gets the ball inside the goal circle, only three seconds is allowed for a shot, so there’s little time to line up the shot and make it. The procedure for shooting may sound easy, but under the pressures imposed by a real game it is not, and only lots of practice can make the technique appear second nature.

The Technique – Preparation

Firstly, get the goalpost in your line of sight. If there is an opposing player between you and the net, ignore them – if you throw the ball properly then there’s very little chance that they will be able to intercept it (unless they are considerably taller than you!).

Put your feet in a position that gives you the best combination of balance and height possible; you might find that having them roughly shoulder length apart is the best position.

The holding of the ball is important. Balancing it on the fingertips of your dominant hand and steadying it with your other is the way to begin. The spring of the fingertips give the control of the ball’s spin, while the steadying hand is your main aiming tool: make sure it’s pointing the ball into the net!

The Technique – Squat

Now you need to do some aerobics. Physics tells us that all the power for your shot comes from the floor, and you’re going to need to harness that power in the most effective way in order to transfer it into a flying ball.

Bend your knees and squat down with your back straight and your head up – you don’t need to go all the way down, but you’ll need to experiment to discover how much of a squat you need to get the required power. All the while, your hands should stay in the same position, and your eyes should be concentrating on the ring.

When you’re ready to shoot, move your hands back slightly behind your head, and as you spring upright, move them forward and upwards. All the power from your springing knees and the moving hands needs to be transferred to the ball.

The Technique – Shoot!

Your focus should, at all times, be on the ring (and this is why everything else needs to be practised so that it become second nature) – try and concentrate on a point at the back of the ring – this will give you slightly more leeway in terms of your judged length for the shot. When your knees spring and your arms are moving forward, you should release the ball.

Spin the ball backwards by flicking your wrists on release – this makes any bounce on the ring itself a little more forgiving. The trajectory for your shot should be as steep as possible – this gives a better chance of the ball dropping through the net, and also renders any blocking in front of you largely useless – of course this is easier said than done, and you need to judge the amount of power you need to put into the shot to make this work.

End the shot with your arms straight and in the direction of the shot – follow in towards the net in case it didn’t go in – you might as well have a second chance if possible!

Conclusion

The key to shooting in netball is practice, practice and more practice. Did I mention you should practice some?

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Netball Skills – Bounce Pass

Introduction

The nature of netball means that many of the passes and skills are related to playing “tall”: everyone expects the ball to be in the air most of the time. This is why the bounce pass can be a useful tool for surprising a complacent opponent. Mastering it adds a different tool to your passing arsenal.

The rules only allow one bounce between players when passing, so good judgement as to the most useful point at which to bounce is essential.

The bounce, along with the fact that the pass can be disguised as, among other things, a chest pass, make it extremely useful when in a crowded goal area. Even if both the thrower and the recipient are being carefully marked, the bounce can allow both to outwit their opponents.

There are two versions of the bounce pass, one- and two-handed. The two-handed pass is easier to control than the one-handed version, so we will deal with that here.

Preparation

Hold the ball at chest height firmly in both hands, pointing in the direction you wish to pass. Remember that the position of the hands will be slightly higher than the position used in the chest pass, since the ball will need much more of a downward push to ensure an effective bounce.

As with many passing techniques, your stance is all-important. Balance is the key, and you should make sure that you are fully in control of your balance before attempting to make the bounce pass. Slightly bent knees are often the best solution.

The Pass

At the moment of release, the ball should be at about waist height. Use the distance from your chest to your waist to give the ball as much power as needed in the situation. Flick the wrists and fingers at the point of release to add a final powerful push to the ball.

Ideally, the ball needs to get to the receiver at about waist height: any higher or lower will make it proportionally more troublesome to catch. Depending on your relative positions, aiming the bounce just further than halfway between will be about right.

Putting spin on the ball on release will have varying effects: back spin (when the ball is spinning towards you) will make the ball “sit up” once it hits the ground; top spin will make it skip along a little closer to the floor. Depending on the situation, it may be appropriate to apply either in order that the pass is successful.

Upon releasing follow through and bend your knees to retain balance. Look for your next move and keep going.

Conclusion

Knowing exactly where to bounce the ball, what power to apply to the pass, and what, if any, spin is required in order to get the pass to your team mate requires knowledge that cannot be taught. Practice, practice, and, yup, you guessed it, more practice is the only way in which this pass will become an effective, natural and useful addition to your netball skills. So practice!

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Netball Skills – Shoulder Pass

Introduction

The shoulder pass is a useful high pass performed using one hand. It is direct, and covers longer distances than the chest pass; the height of the pass means that you can elude any pesky defenders standing between you and your fellow team members.

This technique, as with many of the techniques used in netball (and indeed in any sport), will only work effectively if sufficient practice is undertaken; the action should become second nature: thinking about what you’re doing is rarely an option in a game situation.

Preparation

The ball should rest on the fingertips of the throwing hand – protected until the very last moment by the non-throwing hand. Your elbow should be positioned at right angles to the shoulder.

Your feet should be placed to give you the most power and balance; the foot on the opposite side to your throwing arm might be best placed in front of your body. Bending the knees slightly gives maximum control over your weight distribution, and provides the opportunity to “spring” out of the position once the pass is made.

The Throw

Fully straighten the throwing arm (and don’t forget to let go with the protecting non-throwing hand – failure to do this will result in frustration), following through with your entire arm, and transferring all weight onto your front foot.

Try to aim as near to vertical as possible: the ball should take the shortest route between you and the receiver, and that is always a straight line.

Keep your eyes on the receiver until the ball is caught, and prepare to make a move to the next useful spot!

Conclusion

Staple skills such as this shoulder pass may seem uncomplicated, but getting them absolutely right – and minimising unforced errors – can mean the difference between an emphatic victory and an ignominious defeat. As always: practice, practice, practice and practice some more.

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Netball Skills – Chest Pass

Introduction

The chest pass is ubiquitous in netball – used accurately, it is the quickest and most efficient way of getting a ball from one place to another. If your team can chest pass at lightening pace, then there is great opportunity to tie up the opposition players without them getting anywhere near anyone with the ball.

Advantageous? Oh yes.

As with many of the techniques used in netball (and indeed in any sport), it is important to practice passing enough so that the action itself becomes second nature: thinking about what you’re doing is rarely an option in a game situation.

Preparation

Your hands should form a W behind the netball with the thumbs together and the forefingers and other fingers holding the ball, always keep it close to your chest. The ball’s destination, you, and the ball itself should for as straight a line as possible.

Your feet should be in a position that will give you the best balance and opportunity to step “through” the shot (see later) – keeping your feet shoulder distance apart and bending your knees slightly usually provides the best balance and helps prepare for cat-like quick movements. Knowing where to pass to is a huge problem to newer players, but tips on that are out of the scope of this article and must be left for another time.

The Push

As you prepare to pass the ball, keep your eyes on the destination. Step forward with either leg and, using your elbows, push through the ball in the desired direction. As you’re stepping forward, try and use the momentum you gain from the ground to add extra power to the pass – the faster the ball travels, the less likely it is to be intercepted by an enterprising opposing player. Of course, if your fellow player is only two or three metres away, then unleashing a pass with the power of Thor Himself will probably lead to broken fingers. Practise will enable you to bound gleefully along that fine line between interception and snapped bones.

The Release

Keep pushing through the ball and at the point of maximum power, release it – keep following through the ball with your whole body. Hopefully it should trace a graceful path through to the point at which you aimed it without bouncing. Use your stepping motion as a start to your next run.

Conclusion

Staple skills such as the chest pass may seem simple, but getting them absolutely right – and minimising unforced mistakes – can mean the difference between a glorious win and ignominious defeat. Practice, practice, practice and practice some more.

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Netball Skills – The Pivot

Introduction

So you’ve got the ball from another member of your team. You’re facing in completely the wrong direction to pass to anyone in any useful position, and those pesky rules say that you can’t run up the field while you hold onto the ball. But those same rules say tell us that we can, among other exciting things, make one step in any direction.

Legal movement while holding the ball means that you can make conjure up a scoring opportunity out of nowhere. Choosing the right legal manoeuvre is difficult though, and probably only huge amounts of experience and practice that empower you to make the correct choice every time. For now, we’re going to introduce you to one of the very basic and most regularly used on-the-ball techniques: the Pivot.

Preparation

Balance is one of the keys to netball, and as always you need to adjust your stance to give the maximum possible. Before attempting the pivot it you must regain balance; it may seem like a waste of time when you need to keep the ball flowing and you want to pass to a team mate. But if you try and execute a pass while not fully in control there’s a distinct chance that an opposing player will intercept. And it will be all. Your. Fault.

In reality it takes but a fraction of a second to make sure that your weight distribution is correct and that you’re full in control of your body.

The Step

So once you’re fully balanced, you can start the manoeuvre. Choose the direction you want to be in and move one of your legs to make it point that way. The rotation is done on the ball of your stationary foot, while swinging the other leg around. If you’re not happy with your position after the first pivot, then do it again.

Remember: the rules dictate that you can only move one of your legs, so once you’ve pivoted, you must continue to keep the stationary leg still.

Your upper body should be kept as stationary as possible during the pivot. Keep your eye on the game at all times, and be ready to execute the most appropriate pass once you are stationary and under control. Your stationary foot must remain in contact with the floor until you have released the ball: this is easy to forget.

If you’ve jumped for the ball and know you’re going to be landing in the wrong direction, then when you land with one of your feet, consider using it as the stationary pivot foot, and turning quickly. A natural move like this could open up opportunities before the opposition get a hint of what’s going on.

Conclusion

You need to keep your eye and mind on the game when pivoting, and you need to be able to do it in the blink of an eye. The only way to achieve this, and to make it effective and useful in a real game situation, is to practice and practice. Then, when you’ve done that, practice some more.

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