Netball Varsity Team Huddle (Credit: Joe Stankiewicz)

In Defence of: Netball, the Most Unpopular Popular Sport

In Opinion, Sports by Zoë Starbuck3 Comments

Playing a sport at university level, as anyone who does will know, is an immense commitment of time and energy which has two great consequences. The first is the fitness you will gain; the second, the complete and utter love and devotion to your club and every single member of it.

Therefore, as a netball player, it is particularly difficult to have the sport that you invest so much into be underrated and unappreciated by so many people.

The problem lies in the fact that netball is played in almost every primary and secondary school throughout the country: near enough every girl in the UK has played it at some point in her life, and practically everybody has a general awareness of its existence. As a result, netball is very much seen as a ‘school sport’ and it is hard to disassociate the sport from this. People who have played it at school level hold onto their experience of netball as a simple game for the tall and skinny, and those who have never played may condemn it as an ‘easy game for girls’.

Netball is not watched in the same way as other team sports, like football and rugby, partially because a number of rules create misconceptions about the standard and nature of the game. Its label of being a ‘non-contact’ sport, for instance, fosters the misunderstanding that it must be a lesser version of basketball. The fact that a player cannot move with the ball creates the expectation that it will be slow and unexciting; the court size and restricted positioning allow it to be seen as a sport that requires no especial level of stamina or fitness.

These are fictions, myths about netball that I shall proceed to bust.


Myth #1: The non-contact lie

Anyone that has ever played a minute of netball, or watched a minute of a match, will know the illusion of it being a non-contact sport is exactly that. Granted, netball is not rugby, but nonetheless after every game one is left battered and bruised. A common reaction from first-time spectators (in this case my Varsity-watching friends) is the disbelieving exclamation of “I thought it was a non-contact sport!” Netball is a very physical game.

Don’t believe me? Come to the Sports Centre next Wednesday and see for yourself!

Non-contact, right? (Credit: Joe Stankiewicz, Zoe Starbuck)

Non-contact, right?
(Credit: Joe Stankiewicz, Zoe Starbuck)

Myth #2: Netball is boring

To condemn netball as a slow game based on the three second possession rule and inability to move is to make a seriously ill-informed judgement. Momentum swings rapidly in-game. Possession can change hands instantly, and in a tight goal-for-goal game it is literally end to end action. Not only does this prove that netball is a game played at an intense pace, but it also proves it to be an exciting game. Games can be one-sided goal-laden affairs, but this is just as likely as a close game with multiple comebacks – in last week’s fixture, the Blues twice overturned a 5-goal deficit to defeat Nottingham Trent. Further proof can be found by looking at netball’s huge participation statistics; would a boring, dull and un-exciting game really be played by approximately 500 people in our own university, 180,000 people nationwide and over 20 million people worldwide?

Not convinced? Come to the Sports Centre next Wednesday and see for yourself!!

These people are bored, so bored... (Credit: Joe Stankiewicz)

These people are bored, so bored… (Credit: Joe Stankiewicz)


Myth #3: The ‘It’s so easy’ illusion

The most frustrating misconception is the idea that our sport is easy and not particularly demanding. Playing a sixty-minute match is not an easy feat; a high level of fitness is a necessity, achieved only through a great volume of training (much to the annoyance of many a DoS). CULNC’s Blues and Second teams train for 6 hours a week, most of these are skill-based training sessions with integrated fitness-oriented drills, and one is an hour-long strength and conditioning workout. This current season has also seen the introduction of sports psychology and nutrition sessions; we know all about our macro- and micro-nutrients, and how to stay focussed and anchored in the game to maximise our performance. Netball at university level is nothing like school netball, myself and the whole of CULNC can vouch for that. We train, aspire, and support each other with the sole aim of becoming a team of resilient, disciplined, and united athletes.


Still don’t believe me? Come to the Sports Centre next Wednesday and see for yourself!!!



  1. Helen Cunningham

    I have watched our grandaughter playing netball for many years and now follow your blues team . The last Varsity Match was an exciting and feisty affair and I look forward to cheering the blues to victory against Loughborough 2nds next Wed.
    I feel that if more countries played netball at the highest level then it could become a very exciting Olympic sport.

  2. Paul

    Thanks for a fun and informative blog post! Netball is a great sport for fitness, conditioning, strength and speed. It also improves reaction times and develops good spatial awareness.

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