The rules are rooted in basketball, and the skills needed are the same, but there is something about netball that needs to be experienced to fully understand.
On April 15, there is a drop-in session at the Chestermere Rec Centre for girls aged 8-16 to try the fast-paced sport, and then there will be a league running every Sunday until June 17.
According to Corey Skrypnek, the business development administrator for Netball Alberta, anyone who enjoys basketball will easily pick up on this game, even with the differences.
And once that happens, which is what happened with Skrypnek more than three years ago, netball can be addicting.
“We find when kids get a chance to play it, they love it,” said Skrypnek, who will be running the Sunday sessions. “We tend to draw kids who are a little more about strategy and the fast pace and less about the aggression and one person who is a wonder.
“In netball, the ball has to be touched three times going up the court, so you can’t have a superstar who grabs it and goes and scores. It’s very team-orientated, so kids really love it.”
There will be two groups for these Rec Centre sessions, one for 8-11-year-olds and the other for 12-16-year-olds. The goal is to get kids exposed to the game and see if they can pick it up.
It’s ideal if anyone has enjoyed basketball but would like to try some altered rules.
The biggest difference is there is no dribbling, which means the player with the ball must stay in place. The ball moves through passing, but the players that don’t have the ball are constantly in motion, looking to get open on the floor.
Good teams keep the ball moving quickly, and the goal is to get the ball to two designated shooters in the attacking zone. There are seven players on the floor instead of just five for basketball, but they are restricted in where they can go.
“You have to shoot inside the 16-foot circle,” Skrypnek said. “You can’t be outside of it. The centre isn’t allowed inside that circle though. They can get the ball down there but they can’t shoot. They have to pass so that someone else can shoot. It sounds very complicated but it all makes sense when you see it.
“The court is split into thirds. There’s an attacking third where you try to score on, then a defending third where the other team tries to score. Anyone who is an attacking player can’t go in the defending third. The defender wants to stop the other team. It’s logic if you think about it.
“How Netball started was the English asked for the rules from the Americans. The translation was taken very literally and Netball was born. When you play basketball, you learn where to be. It’s like that. We have a centre, who is more like a point guard. They are attacking and defending.”
There are fewer than 500 netball players in Alberta, with most of them residing in Calgary. There are groups in Edmonton and Drumheller as well, but the sport is still in the infancy stage.
This will be the first time Chestermere will get exposed to the sport at the rec level, but Netball Alberta has done programs at some schools in the city.
Because of how relatively new netball is to Alberta, there’s a decent chance to play it at a high level. There are national championships every year in under-23 and open adult divisions, so a teenager has a legitimate chance at making it there if they start now.
“So that’s pretty exciting,” Skrypnek said. “One of our goals in the next few years is to reach out to the basketball programs. All these girls that drop out of that sport because they can’t make a team, they still have skills.
“They have qualities we can use. Why not try another sport? It might suit you the way basketball didn’t.”