One of the puzzles of netball for the non-aficionado is the restriction on movement. Why would you want to restrict players to certain areas of the court and – when they have the ball – stop them moving at all? The answer is that it started with a misunderstanding. The men’s game, basketball, was invented by James Naismith in Massachusetts in 1891, and in 1895 Clara Baer of New Orleans asked him to send a copy of the rules, with a view to introducing it to girls. The rules he sent contained a drawing of the court with lines penciled across it, simply to show the area various players could best patrol. Baer misinterpreted this as meaning that players could not leave these areas, and wrote that rule into her version.
A Massachusetts girls’ gym teacher named Senda Berenson modified netabll so as to make it more seemly for young women. In an essay titled ‘The Significance of Basket Ball for Women’, published in 1903, she wrote that ‘unless a game as exciting as basketball is carefully guided by such rules as will eliminate roughness, the great desire to win and the excitement of the game will make our women do sadly unwomanly things’.
To this end, she banned tackling and instituted a three-second time limit for holding the ball, a limit of three dribbles, and the division of the court into thirds. Each player was restricted to one of these thirds so that none of the girls would have to run too far. ‘A number of girls who play without division lines’, she wrote, ‘have developed hypertrophy of the heart’.
Berenson also believed men were inherently better team players so the restrictions would encourage selfish women to play together nicely.
In the modern era both amateur and professional boxing have a lower injury rate than netball.
Netball is an outlet - an escape from the humdrum. There's nothing gives me such a kick. Well, nothing except vodka.
Netball is ‘recognised’ by the Olympics, but not actually played in them. Attempts to rectify this have been going on since 1967, but it’s only the Australians who really care.
Netball, basketball and volleyball were invented in the same college in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Unlike women's netball at elite and national levels, men's and mixed gendered teams are largely self-funded.
The International Netball Federation recognises only women's netball.