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Fitness

Netball – Not Just For Schoolgirls

Fast, furious, and nothing like it was at school. The popularity of netball is soaring, and for good reason...

Two broken bones, torn ligaments, even whiplash: not ailments you usually associate with the game of netball, right? Well this is what I’ve taken away from the sport over the years I’ve been playing… and I still flipping love it!

Netball is the fastest-growing and most popular team sport for women IN THE WORLD

Many people think of netball as a slow, prissy game played by schoolgirls shrieking and spending as much time running away from the ball as towards it. Well erase that thought from your mind and consider this.

Netball is the fastest-growing and most popular team sport for women IN THE WORLD! 160,000 people – mainly women – play this lightning quick, highly competitive and super-tactical sport in the UK every week. So it turns out I’m not the only netball geek around here.

England Netball are pretty keen to spread the word and their Back to Netball crusade (which has seen upwards of 60,000 women take part), together with their Big Summer of Netball campaign, are fun sessions designed to encourage people to give the sport another go.

Clare Atkinson from Nottingham did, and she now considers herself to be a netball convert. Here’s why….

Clare (right) started playing netball a year ago and has now lost two stone

What prompted you to get into netball again?

“I played at school when I was 10 or 11 and enjoyed it but, when I went to secondary school and discovered boys, it took a back seat. Then, as I got older, I didn’t have time – or so I thought. But my best friend started going to the Back to Netball sessions and kept pestering me to go, so eventually I joined her. That was a year ago and I’ve fallen in love with it. I now play three sessions a week.”

Do you still have to wear tiny skirts and gym knickers?

For matches we wear netball dresses, but they’re not like they used to be – they’re actually quite stylish!

“Not at all. You can wear anything; leggings, sweats, shorts, whatever you feel comfortable in. For matches we wear netball dresses, but they’re not like they used to be – they’re actually quite stylish! The beauty of netball is that you don’t need to spend a load of money on fancy kit.”

Clare has made loads of good mates through playing netball

What do you get out of it?

I gave up smoking after getting back into netball. I’d be wheezing when I was running around the court, so it was the incentive I needed to quit

“I’ve made loads of good friends, we’re all a similar age and fitness level and it’s nice to have that comradery. It couldn’t be more different from when I’d go to the gym and there were all these skinny women and I’d just be a sweaty mess hiding at the back.

“I wanted to kick-start my diet as well and I’ve lost two stone. I also gave up smoking after getting back into netball. I’d be wheezing when I was running around the court, so it was the incentive I needed to quit.”

How does netball differ now from your memories of playing at school?

“It’s not as regimental as I remember it being. It’s really fast-paced and I remember at school thinking it lasted forever, but now it feels like it’s over too quickly.”

What other health benefits do you get from netball?

My stamina and overall fitness has improved because it’s essentially like interval training

It’s really good for PMT as it helps you get that aggression out! My stamina and overall fitness has definitely improved because it’s essentially like interval training. That has made me want to be healthier in general, so it’s prompted me to eat more healthily.

“My shape has definitely changed as well. I’ve lost 20-odd inches off my waist and arms because I’m working muscles I don’t normally use day to day.”

Do you have to be a certain size and shape to play netball?

“No, there’s a position to suit every size, shape and fitness level. You get mixed teams and men’s teams as well. I’d love to play against these men who think netball is just for girls!”

No idea what’s happening here

Netball tips for beginners

1. Don’t skip the warm-up. Netball involves short, sharp sprints and quick changes of direction, which means you’re putting a strain on bits of your body that you wouldn’t normally. So avoid injury and stretch properly… even if it makes you look like a bit of a keeno!

2. If you’re going to invest money in anything, make it a decent pair of supportive trainers. Twisted ankles are really common in netball, so make sure you protect them.

3. Keep a pair of nail clippers in your kit bag. Long nails are a no no, because you can get pretty badly scratched – and they’ll be checked before every game.

Fancy giving it a go? Find your nearest Back to Netball session at englandnetball.co.uk

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