What is Netball?

Netball is a mix of basketball, European handball and ultimate frisbee with a ball the size of a volleyball and a hoop with no backboard. It's played in over 65 countries in the world by over 20 million people and the U.S. is currently ranked ninth in the world!


>> View Netball Rules in PowerPoint

Netball is a fast, skillful game based on running, jumping, throwing and catching. There are 7 players per team on court at a time but not a single player is allowed in every zone of the court.

Netball is somewhat similar to basketball but with some major differences:

No backboard on the smaller hoop
No running or dribbling with the ball
Players can only hold the ball for 3 seconds before passing
Players have a specific position which is restricted to an area on the court

Only 2 of the 7 players may shoot a goal
Positions on a netball team are as follows:

GS - Goal Shooter
GA - Goal Attack
WA - Wing Attack
C - Center
WD - Wing Defense
GD - Goal Defense
GK - Goal Keeper

A game is divided into four quarters of 15 minutes. The teams change ends after each quarter. The game starts with a center pass and each team alternates the center pass following each goal scored.

A player may catch the ball with one or both hands but must pass the ball within three seconds. Netball is a non-contact sport and no player may come into personal contact with an opponent even if it is accidental.

Only two positions on the team may shoot and shots must be taken from within the semi-circle surrounding the netball post.

The netball court illustrated above shows two teams in position. The red team is attacking in the direction of the red arrow and the black team is attacking in the direction of the black arrow. The netball court is 100 ft. long by 50 ft. wide (the same size as a tennis court). The court is divided into thirds and at both ends there is a semi-circle (16 ft radius). The goal posts are placed at the midpoint of each goal line. They are the same height as basketball goals (10 ft). Check out our gallery (LINK) for action shots of actual play.


Netball started in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. A 30 year-old Canadian immigrant to the USA, James Naismith, was ordered to invent an indoor game for high-spirited young men at the School for Christian Workers. Most of these practice games ended with injury rates of staggering proportions! So Naismith conjured up a game whereby a ball had to be lobbed into a high peach basket (his reasoning being that if a ball had to be dropped into the "goal," it couldn't be thrown at breakneck speed).

Basketball was born...with the original game featuring nine players - three forwards, three centers and three guards - simply because Naismith had 18 youths to keep amused. Women's indoor basketball began exactly two days later when female teachers at the gym were captivated by the game. However, it wasn't until 1895 that the current game of netball was truly shaped.

When Clara Baer, a sports teacher in New Orleans, wrote to Naismith asking for a copy of the rules, the subsequent rules package contained a drawing of the court with lines penciled across it, simply to show the areas various players could best patrol. But Baer misinterpreted the lines and thought players couldn't leave those areas! In 1899 her mistake was ratified into the rules of women's basketball as zones. Three-bounce dribbling had quickly been extended in the men's game (which didn't have no-go zones), but it was seldom used in the women's version when it reached Britain and the Empire. In fact, there was no pressure to increase that form of ball movement and in the end dribbling simply ceased to exist.

Netball was first played in England in 1895 at Madame Ostenburg's College. In the first half of the 20th century, netball's popularity continued to grow, with the game being played in many British Commonwealth countries. There were no standard rules at that time with both 9 on-a-side and 5 on-a-side versions of the game.

During an Australian tour of England in 1957, discussions took place concerning standardizing the rules of the sport. This led to representatives from England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and The West Indies meeting in Sri Lanka in 1960 to establish The International Federation of Women's Basketball and Netball. Formal rules were established at this inaugural meeting and it was decided to hold World Championship tournaments every four years, beginning in Eastbourne, England, in 1963.


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