Netball is the ultimate social sport – 150000 people can’t be wrong – The Guardian (blog)

Outside netball there is a naivety about our game. It has taken us years to breakdown the schoolgirl stereotype and yet articles keep coming back to “I hated it at school” or “it’s not cool”.

Netball is the ultimate social sport. Whether it is at the elite end where we have serious athletes, or to the participation walking netball played for fun on local courts, we have more than 150,000 women playing every single week – and 150,000 people can’t all be the uncoolest people in the country.

There’s a position and a level for everyone: short or tall, you can be a shooter holding in the circle or you can be a centre that’s running all the time. It’s one of those games where you can’t just have one superstar to win, so I actually think it is the perfect game for kids. I’ve coached a lot of children and whereas other games like football can have a star that dribbles past everybody and scores, netball is the ideal teamwork game because you have to use almost everyone to get the ball down to the shooters, so everyone has a role to play.

I have no problem with men playing the game too and I think it’s great that they do. But I do feel the beauty of netball is it can often stand alone as a big female participation sport, it means it doesn’t have to live up to that expectation that it’s not the same as the men’s game, whereas football, cricket and rugby all have to breakdown those barriers. All women’s sports are fighting their own mini-battles and that is why articles like this G2 one are frustrating because the only way women’s sport is going to grow is by more women getting on board and supporting it at all levels.

That doesn’t mean you have to love the game, that doesn’t mean you even want to play it, but to suggest that netball is “uncool” is just a little bit insulting. We are constantly putting out messages that we want girls to be fit and healthy; well how cool would it be if they felt they could have a pick of sports and would be respected for it? At the moment I don’t think we promote that girls are now getting opportunities to be pro netballers, footballers, rugby players, cricketers – surely we should be celebrating that and not creating barriers?

Australia and New Zealand are both running pro netball leagues. They have TV coverage, and some of the netball crowds in Australia last year were bigger than their rugby crowds. I lived and played there for two years and netball is treated very differently. Women in netball are really respected, as they are in many other sports they compete in. It is a different culture there, and we should be aspiring to create that over here to give girls a real opportunity to make sport a serious career choice.

Maria Tutaia of New Zealand shoots past South Africa’s Phumza Maweni during the recent Quad Series game in London.

Maria Tutaia of New Zealand shoots past South Africa’s Phumza Maweni during the recent Quad Series game in London. Photograph: Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

How amazing if the talking points last week were about the game itself and how good the Superleague is, and how good the international was at the weekend. I guess that’s why so many of us were annoyed because we are constantly having to fight the trivial battles rather than actually recognise – like many women’s sports – who the stars are, who the teams are, when it’s happening, who’s following it. The roundup this weekend should have been how amazing it was that England nearly beat the world No1 side, Australia, how close it was, what a fantastic game it was, and yet I didn’t see many articles about that.

I want to see girls inspired to make sport a real career option and not to have to defend what they do. I want to see more women backing each other through competing, watching or discussing sport properly. And most importantly I want girls to have positive role models in all aspects of life.

Having the likes of our netball Superleague, the inclusion of more teams this season, brands like Wasps getting involved which see the potential of female sport, and with Sky being so dedicated to showing the games – it’s definitely going in the right direction. As Twitter rightly trended this weekend, netball is on the rise.

Tamsin Greenway is the director of netball for Wasps and a Sky Sports pundit


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