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Netball is a team sport that is played on a court with seven players on each side. It is a variation of basketball, played on a basketball court, but with the rules modified to reflect concerns in Victorian England that basketball was too unladylike for women to play.


James Naismith invented basketball in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. At the time, he did not standardize the number of players on each side, but allowed a variable number to accommodate the number of players present. Basketball quickly spread to London, England in 1893, where some people questioned its suitability for women and their clothing. Netball as a sport separate from basketball traces back to Martina Bergman-Österberg who introduced it in 1893 to her female students at the Physical Training College in Hampstead, London.[1] In 1901, the Ling Association (later the Physical Education Association of the United Kingdom) published the first codified rules of netball.[2] Although netball spread to some Commonwealth countries, it never gained the popularity of basketball in other locales. Initially, the different nations used different rules for the sport. In 1957, International Federation of Netball and Women's Basketball (later the International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA)) was formed to administer the sport worldwide under standardized rules.[3] In order to obtain funding, the IFNA then lobbied the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for two decades to seek recognition. In 1995, the IOC recognized the IFNA as an international sports federation, although that step does not make netball an Olympic sport (neither a "core" or "non-core" sport that would be eligible for inclusion in the Olympic Programme.)

International Competition

Unquestionably, the two top netball playing nations have been Australia and New Zealand. They are the only two nations to have won the Netball World Championships outright, and neither team has lost to any other team since 1995. Other nations that play and have enjoyed a modicum of success include England, South Africa, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The game has been played at the Commonwealth Games since 1998. Although the game has been nominally professional since the early 1980s, its first significant steps toward professionalism occurred with the introduction of the Trans-Tasman ANZ Cup, which is played for between 5 franchises in each of Australia and New Zealand.


A netball court is 50 feet wide and 100 feet long and is divided into three zones. Hoops and nets are placed 10 feet above the court without backboards, and there is a 16-foot radius shooting circle around each goal. At any time, seven players are allowed on the court for each team, and each player is declared to have a specific position. Each player wears a bib which shows an abbreviation of his or her position. The seven positions are Goal Keep (GK), Goal Defence (GD), Wing Defence (WD), Center (C), Wing Attack (WA), Goal Attack (GA) and Goal Shoot (GS). The rules do not allow players with the ball to move. The ball is advanced toward the goals by passing from player to player. Because running and dribbling was considered unladylike by Victorian England, the rules limit the movement of each player and the ball advances toward the goals by passing. To keep the players spread out over the court, the rules limit where each player may go during the game.

Positions and Designated Zones

Each player is allowed to remain only in designated zones. Goal Attack and Goal Shooter are the only players allowed in the attacking shooting circle and so are the only players that shoot for goal. Goal Shoot is restricted to the third that includes the shooting circle, while Goal Attack is also allowed in the central third. Goal Keep and Goal Defence are the only players allowed in the defensive shooting circle to attempt to prevent the opposition from shooting goals. The Goal Keeper is restricted to the defensive third and tends to mark the Goal Shooter, while Goal Defence can also move into the central third and tends to mark the Goal Attack. Wing Defence is restricted to the defensive two-thirds of the court and Wing Attack to the attacking two-thirds, while Center can move through any of the thirds. However, neither of these positions are allowed in the shooting circles and their objective is to either move the ball to a player that can shoot or to prevent the opposition from doing so.[4]

Politics of netball

Because women teams have competed in basketball at the Olympic Summer Games since 1976, it is highly unlikely that netball will ever become an Olympic sport. The IOC has selected its sports through 2016, and netball has never been selected for inclusion in the Olympics.

Historically, the IFNA and national netball governing bodies have been staffed exclusively by women with little professionalization or commercialization. As sports marketing has evolved into an international and highly commercial industry, there has been political conflict over the leadership and funding of netball. Reformers have advocated changing the presentation of the game to emphasize athleticism and to make the game more spectator friendly. However, radical feminists have argued that because the game is mostly played by women and has a large number of women administrators, it should be entitled to funding and inclusion in the Olympics on the basis of gender equity regardless of its international obscurity.[5]

Starting in February 2011, radical feminists have tried to boost public awareness of netball by creating articles on Wikipedia to create the false impression that Netball was in fact a sport that is played in the Olympics.[6][7]


  1. McIntosh, Peter C. (1968). Physical Education in England Since 1800. London: Bell. ISBN 071350689X. OCLC 41636 p. 292
  2. Taylor, Tracy (November 2001). "Gendering Sport: The Development of Netball in Australia". Sporting Traditions, Journal of the Australian Society for Sports History 18 (1): 57–74.
  3. International Federation of Netball Associations. About IFNA. Retrieved on 2011-06-28.
  4. Hickey, Julia; Navin, Anita (2007). Understanding netball. Coachwise. ISBN 9781905540129. OCLC 174094782
  5. Taylor, Tracy (November 2001). "Gendering Sport: The Development of Netball in Australia". Sporting Traditions, Journal of the Australian Society for Sports History 18 (1): 57–74. 
  6. Hale, Laura (March 26, 2011). Netball at the Olympics. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved on 2011-06-28.
  7. Hale, Laura (March 20, 2011). Netball in the Cook Islands. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved on 2011-06-28.