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History of Netball

The History of Netball


English women playing netball in 1910

Where did it all start………

Today, more than 20 million people play netball across 70 different countries and it is England’s most popular female team sport – but where did it all start?

The story goes that it’s thanks to one woman’s poor map reading skills.

Clara Baer, a PE teacher in America in the late 19 century, misread rules she was sent when teaching the then recently invented sport of basketball.

She misinterpreted the zones of the court as they were mapped out, thinking they were areas certain players were not allowed out of.

This led to the ball being passed rather than bounced and gradually the concept was developed into a game completely different to basketball using a larger ball and rings and nets instead of baskets.

The game was first played in England at Madame Ostenburg’s College (now Dartford College) in 1895 and became so popular, it quickly spread across the British Empire.

It took some time before international championships were organised but this eventually came to fruition in the 1960s when the first World Championship was held.

Netball later became part of the Commonwealth Games and this, along with the World Championships, is currently the pinnacle tournament for competitive netball players.

The sport was ‘recognised’ as an Olympic sport in 1995 but has yet to be included in any Olympic Games programmes – despite numerous campaigns.

In 2006, inaugural Netball Superleague takes place, and England Netball sign a deal with Sky Sports to have the 2nd season televised.

In 2009, the game was given a re-vamp with the invention of Fast Net – a faster paced and higher scoring version of the tradition game devised to increase interest and spectators in the way Twenty20 has for cricket.

Since 2009 the game has gone from strength to strength with more and more women taking up the sport at every level and there are now more than 156,000 netballers across the country who are playing the sport for at least half an hour every week.




School netball game in New Zealand, ca. 1920.









Early netball game in Queensland, Australia.

The players are wearing gymslips, which were common attire for netballers throughout much of the early 20th century.

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