Could netball help you reach your fitness goal?

Could netball help you reach your fitness goal? Jo Haywood dons her old wing defence bib to find out

Why are more and more Yorkshire women choosing to wear a bib when they’re not even allowed to dribble? That’s easy – they’re getting back into netball.

Over the last 12 months, Back to Netball sessions have been cropping up all over the county, most noticeably in Leeds, where more than 500 women are now playing the sport on a weekly basis.

This is an England Netball initiative developed to encourage women to revisit a game they probably haven’t played since they left school. The coach-led sessions teach basic skills through to game play and are aimed at women who are returning to netball and have a basic understanding of its principles lurking somewhere in the dim recesses of their mind, instilled many years ago – and not so many, in some cases – during games lesson drills.

‘Most ladies who attend worry their fitness and skill levels aren’t up to par,’ said Emily Hearle, a netball development community coach in Leeds. ‘But the fun, social and supportive element of Back to Netball make it easy to instantly get involved with the game.

‘In essence, the sessions provide women with an opportunity to regain their fitness, rediscover their love for netball and develop a new circle of friends.’

For those of you who don’t remember – or have blanked it out, apart from the occasional embarrassing flashback involving short pleated skirts and windy days – netball is a high-energy game that hinges on dodging for the ball, accurate passing and successful interceptions. It involves lots of changes of pace, twisting, reaching and jumping, which means players are essentially putting their bodies through a hardcore interval training session.

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The high-impact nature of the sport is good for increasing bone density, which is particularly important for women, who can face the prospect of osteoporosis during the menopause.

There are potential downsides to choosing netball to reach your fitness goal, with common injuries like twisted ankles and knees cropping up on court, but you can substantially reduce the risk by warming up properly, wearing the correct trainers, building your core strength and only playing to your level.

‘Some women choose to use the sessions as social events,’ said Emily. ‘While others want to pursue netball in a more competitive environment. There’s something for everyone.’

To find out more about the Back to Netball scheme or to find your nearest session, visit or email

Full-time stats

Netball began life in the USA in 1891 under the name basket ball. The first official match was recorded in 1900, after it had been renamed netball and the waste paper baskets previously used as goals had been replaced with rings and nets.

The All England Netball Association was formed in London in 1926, with the first inter-county tournament which was held in Essex six years later.

The first world tournament was held in Eastbourne and won by Australia in 1963. England finished third behind New Zealand.

English players demonstrated netball in Stuttgart at the 1973 German Festival of Sport.

The AENA employed a marketing company in 1986 to raise the profile of the game and, three years later, launched its national youth development programme.

A new five-a-side mini-game of netball, known as High Five, was launched in 1996.

Sky Sports signed up to televise the Netball Superleague in 2006, just a year after it was set up. And, in 2009, the World Netball Series was launched, introducing new rules including shooting from outside the circle and a shorter format.

Team talk

If team sports appeal to you but netball doesn’t score any points, why not put your fitness to the test with these alternatives?

Back to Hockey is a gentle introduction or re-introduction to this popular school and college game. Coaches lead six or eight-week blocks which focus on fitness, fun and friendship. For details, visit

Football looks set to become even more popular with women after the FA recently set up its first elite, semi-professional women’s summer league. To find out more about training opportunities in your area, visit

If you enjoy thinking outside the box, then padding up for a game of cricket could be the right fitness choice for you. Information about clubs and coaching across the region is available at

It doesn’t matter how old you are, how fit you are, or how fabulous you look in a bikini, volleyball is a viable fitness option for all. Its popularity looks set to soar this year, thanks to London 2012, so why not beat the crowds by checking out local clubs now at

The print version of this article appeared in the March 2012  issue of Yorkshire Life 

We can deliver a copy direct to your door – order online here 

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