When is netball not netball – when it’s social!
I was watching my son compete at the intermediate school athletics, silently willing him to win at his events, but practising a nonchalant air. A conversation began between myself and another mum. We wandered through the normal, homework, friends and siblings conversations with varying degrees of attention, as each son’s event came and went. I was incredibly impressed to learn, that she both organised and played, in a social netball league and heard myself saying that I would like to play a team sport.
A couple of months later I answered a call from said mum.
She announced brightly, “I have a place in my netball team if you are still keen?”
” I haven’t played for 30 years, I excused myself.”
“Don’t worry” she soothed, “we are all the same, just mum’s wanting to play for fun.”
” Ummmmmmm……..” I groped around for something……anything…..no valid excuse came. “OK”, I said with a squeaky voice “see you on Tuesday”. “Who was that?” my husband asked, seeing the blood drain from my face. I explained and he nearly choked on his beer but knew better than to say anything.
I grilled my daughter for anything helpful that, she could add to the hours of tutorials I had watched and even persuaded her to throw a ball around with me. After fifteen minutes, she declared that we should just work on the basics. We had a lesson on how to catch and throw a ball.
Tuesday evening came, I borrowed my daughter’s orange netball trainers and I managed to drive myself to the hall without being sick. I walked in and was greeted and introduced to, a wonderful group of ladies, I began to relax and I nodded to the opposition, who all smiled and said hello. I was thrown a black bib and as I pulled it on I asked the gent next to me, who I assumed to be a husband, which lines I was allowed to move between. He smiled like a wolf and the whistle blew. I wasn’t ready and wandered around like an old lady waiting to cross the road. Eventually, as the ball hurtled over my head, a kindly woman beckoned me into her half circle. “You are with me dear” she explained. “thanks” I mumbled into my chest as I looked down at my bib, it confirmed G.K. She threw the ball and scored. “You’re welcome” she replied. We had a lovely conversation and as I explained that I was new to the team, she scored another two goals. She told me that she did not really play either and scored another. My partner glared at me and told me to put my arms up. I mouthed sorry and looked down the court.
“is that a man down there?” I asked.
“Oh yes, he has been with us from the start, he is a friend of my son” my opposition answered. I began to think that this was going to be great fun, the moisture in my mouth returned. OK, I can do this, I thought and took a deep breath. The ball was coming down the court and I enthusiastically made a move to defend.
WHISTLE. “Contact”, the ref called, I continued, unaware that the whole game had stopped. I gave the ball up once I had understood the referees exaggerated arm movements.
WHISTLE. “Stand down”. Me, I gestured to my chest with my forefinger. The ref nodded, with a tight mouth and wide eyes, whistle at the ready.
My opposition scored a perfect goal. I clapped, and congratulated her, my team were disgusted with me. Just as I was getting to know my lady, she began to take her bib off, so I did the same, “is it time for a break?” I asked her. “Oh no, no here is my son, I was just standing in for him”
My team partner indicated that I should get ready but I was watching a young man, who I could have given birth to, as he loped onto the court and smiled, collected his bib, and said “thanks, mum”. The next half an hour is still a blur to me. I do remember that I broke every single rule on multiple occasions, spent much time jumping into the young man’s chest and treading on his feet, at great embarrassment to us both. I used the words, sorry, oops, who me and Oh no more than a sane person ever should. I badly wanted to pull the whistle of the young refs lanyard and jump up and down on it and shout it’s not fair. We lost. In that time, I realised that this was not a social sport, it was a matter of life and death for both teams and that a ‘mixture of people’ meant both young and old men and woman, who seemed to be a mix between professional basketball and rollerball players. Thankfully the game ended, both teams smiled widely and shook hands while I stood in my half circle with PDSD. I left the court as the next game began. I picked up my coat and staggered back to my car. I sat in the drivers seat for over half an hour with the heart of a hampster and shaking. I was so hot and sweaty that I was considering stripping down to my underwear, and probably would have done if I had had the full use of my limbs at that point. I was in no state to drive home and was sitting wondering what had just happened when I was pulled back to the present with a tapping on my window. I wound it down.
“How do you feel?” said my captain. I looked at her blankly. “you’ll get used to it” she answered for me and hopped into her car. “I was rusty at first”, she offered. I still had no words. “Bye, see you next week”. She was gone.
I txt my friend.
Me: I HAVE HAMPSTER HEART.
Friend: LOL. HOWD IT GO
Me: I WANT TO DIE
Friend: WHERE ARE YOU
Me: IN THE CAR PARK, I CAN NOT DRIVE
Friend: SHALL I COME AND GET YOU
Me: I AM NOT SURE WHAT JUST HAPPENED.
Me: IT IS NOT SOCIAL
Friend: ARE YOU OK
Me: I THINK SO
I have played social netball for a while now and enjoy it greatly, but never be fooled, social netball is anything but social on the court.