Why I Play - Madeleine Ralph
Thursday, 02 March 2017
Brookes Sport Ambassador, and 3rd year English and Drama student, Madeleine Ralph, tells us what Netball means to her.
Netball is the most popular team sport amongst the female population, and although it has its origins in basketball, the game we know today is one with its own unique rules and set of skills. I know and have taught girls as young as six who are just learning the basics of passing and footwork, but have also played alongside women in their fifties who may be rusty, but demonstrate with ease the skills they would have learnt back in school. Netball is clearly a game for all ages and abilities, socially and competitively.
I have been playing netball since I was about eight years old, and thirteen years later I’m still learning new things about the game and am always excited to be on the court at every training session and match. It is something in my life which has been a constant, so when I came to university and was fortunate enough to be selected for the squad, what can sometimes be a rollercoaster of a first year seemed to have some normality and stability. Having training sessions in the evening and matches during the day made the whole change to university life a little easier.
We all know that physical activity is key to a balanced healthy lifestyle; however, how we get that activity completely depends on what an individual finds fun and engaging. It’s also important to consider the long term benefits that a team sport like netball can have.
I’ve played netball in multiple environments, and although each has the underlying excitement and enjoyment of the game itself, it has also given me the opportunity to play with so many talented, driven and fun women. From school friends, to university students, to mums who take an hour to train each week and then play a game on a Monday evening. Playing netball, as with most sports, has allowed me to meet and learn from so many people.
When I came to university and was fortunate enough to be selected for the squad, what can sometimes be a rollercoaster of a first year seemed to have some normality and stability.Madeleine Ralph
With such a wide variety of skills to be learnt, training is never boring. You may, inevitably, repeat drills, but with each practice there is a new challenge and improvements to be made - even at a high level. The different positions allow for versatility, something I consider to be one of the most valuable skills to have as a player.
Despite netball being a non-contact sport, I’ve yet to play a season where someone on my team doesn’t get injured, therefore the team needs to be shuffled and players need to feel confident enough in their skill level to move, for example, from a shooter to a defender if needs be.
With netball being a predominantly female sport, the participation of males is mainly at a junior level. The sport offers a space for girls and women to develop their skills and knowledge that can then translate to their everyday lives, while also helping to change the perception of a women’s capabilities.
To me, netball is important in showcasing confident and strong leaders on, and off, the court, as well as in its ability to challenge the cultural norms that prevent gender equality. Through coaching, umpiring, training, league organisation and club governance, netball offers leadership and decision making opportunities for girls and women which, in some areas of life, are sadly still not possible.
Netball, like other team sports, teaches so much more than just drills and tactics: you learn important, valuable skills that you can take with you into the wider world; you learn how to problem-solve quickly and more effectively and how to deal with hardship through defeats or injuries; you learn how to push yourself and remain motivated when things might not look positive. Not to mention the obvious teamwork, which is one of the most sought-after skills in the workplace. The ability to work coherently within a team, yet also know when to lead, is a vital life skill which can translate to so many aspects of life.
The ability to work coherently within a team, yet also know when to lead, is a vital life skill which can translate to so many aspects of life.Madeleine Ralph
Although it is improving, there is not enough funding in netball meaning that even elite England players are still working full time jobs while completing a training regime. This carries on through to local levels, where league coordinators and club managers are putting in the time and effort to keep people playing netball past school and therefore keeping women active and social. Everyone is doing it for the love of the game.
It would be clique to say I play netball purely because I love it. I do, but there is more to it than that. I play because I feel confident on the court. I am by no means the best player there is, nor do I think I know all there is to know about netball, but I know when I step on the court with my teammates that we have complete and utter trust in each other.
We have the belief in each other to support, give options and get the ball to goal as swiftly as possible and do it all over again until we’ve won. There is no judgement, it’s comforting to know that after having played for 45 minutes and you’re red and sweaty no one really cares, in fact if you aren’t sweating buckets you haven’t tried hard enough!
In school, I was on the netball team with one of my best friends for 8 years, and now while at different unis a topic of conversation every week during our FaceTimes is always netball. How the league is going, her reoccurring injury which she obtained in year 6, any funny moments which happened at training or the fancy dress for that Wednesday night out. There is more to the friendship than that, obviously, but netball is so important to both of us that is has made us closer.
For more info, you can find Oxford Brookes University Netball Club by searching for OBUNC on Facebook, or on Instagram at @obunc