Netball is a sport played in primary schools, high schools and universities throughout the UK, and most British women will have played it at some point during their life. Leave the UK though and opportunities to play netball are surprisingly hard to come by; outside of commonwealth countries, most people have never heard of the game.
I was a keen netball player in the UK, playing regularly throughout high school, but when I went abroad, I was frustrated by the lack of opportunities to get involved in the sport and join a team. It seemed that handball and basketball were the only options available to me if I wanted to get my fix. I tried them both, but was left unsatisfied.
Imagine my delight, then, when I moved to Buenos Aires and discovered Argentina’s nascent netball movement. Thanks to the hard work of the Federación Argentina de Netball (Argentine Netball Federation), the sport is taking off in schools and clubs in Buenos Aires and weekly training sessions are open to anyone who would like to participate.
Netball was introduced in Argentina in 2005, as a venture between individuals and institutions who wanted to encourage women to get more involved in sport. The Argentine Netball Federation wants to offer children, teenagers, and women in Argentina the chance to, not only participate in a new sport, but also to broaden their horizons and gain a more international perspective through exchanges with netball teams from abroad.
The Argentine Federation is part of the International Netball Federation and the country has already welcomed squads from South Africa to play against their teams. According to Mabel Roca, President of the Argentina Netball Federation, this cultural exchange really opened the girls’ eyes to the world around them and had wider educational benefits. “The girls became much more enthusiastic about their English classes at school because, as a result of the exchange, the value of learning languages became apparent to them,” she said.
Last Thursday, I went along to the Triglav sports club in Villa Real for my first taste of the sport in Buenos Aires. María Victoria Saborido, an Argentine-Australian, runs the two hour training sessions. “My mum enrolled me in netball in Australia when I was a 9-year-old and I started playing,” she explains. “Then when I moved to Argentina, my sister and I were looking for a sport to play and if it were similar to netball, all the better. My sister started looking around and came in contact with Mabel, from there we started playing netball and training kids and then older girls.”
The sessions start with some cardio training and stretching in the gym, followed by netball drills, working on throwing shooting, and improving playing technique. They finish with a half-court match.
“I would rather play netball that any other sport,” said Victoria Mabel Ceron, one of the girls at the training session. “I love it because it is a team sport which requires a lot of physical energy and team strategy rather than physical contact. It’s a sport where your capabilities and skills shine through rather than your strength.”
The training sessions are very enjoyable: the quality of coaching is excellent and tailored to include players of all abilities. Only the facilities leave a little to be desired. Because netball is just beginning in Argentina and numbers at the training sessions are fairly low – there were seven of us when I attended – the club can only afford to hire a half court. Putting this aside, this training session is fun, energetic and a great way to quench your thirst for netball abroad.
“I think it will take a long time for netball to catch in Argentina,” concluded Saborido. “But, hopefully my grandchildren will have the same opportunities to play netball as I had in Australia.”
If you would like to start playing netball in Argentina, the girls train every Thursday from 8.30-10.30pm at the Triglav sports club Manuel Porcel de Peralta 1458 in Villa Real. Sessions cost $20. For more information visit the website or Facebook page. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Netball began in England in the 1890s but the sport has been updated for modern players and, in 1995, it was recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee. Although boys can and do play netball, it is traditionally a sport played by women and girls.
For those unfamiliar with netball, it is a sport derived from basketball but with important differences. Games are played on a rectangular court with raised goal rings at each end. The goals are similar to those used in basketball but without a backboard. There are seven people in a team and players are assigned specific positions, which define their roles within the team and restrict their movement to certain areas of the court.
Netball is a non-contact sport and when holding the ball, players cannot move, or dribble with the ball. The ball can only be held for three seconds, making the game fast paced. Each team attempts to score goals by passing a ball down the court and shooting it through its goal ring. The winning team is the one that scores the most goals during the 60 minute game.