Netball is a skillful, fast-moving, noncontact team sport mainly played by girls and women. Its origins are in the game of basketball, which was invented by lames Naismith for boys at the School for Christian Workers (later the Young Men's Christian Association or YMCA), in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1891. A women's variant of basketball was immediately established and was later introduced to England in 1895. In 1895, Clara Baer asked Naismith for a copy of the rules. The subsequent rule package contained a drawing of the courts with lines penciled across it, simply to show the area various players could best patrol. Baer misinterpreted the lines on the court and thought players could not leave these areas.
Restrictions on player movement on the court remain a feature of the game. The outfits worn at the time hindered movement such as running and dribbling and also contributed to the restrictive modifications. By 1897, the Baer version of the game, which featured baskets, divided courts, and larger balls, was also played in England. The game became very popular. However, without standardized rules, different versions of the game, including variations in the number of players, existed.
In 1901, the first rule book was printed and the game was renamed netball, as baskets were replaced by rings with nets. The rule book spread to English-settled countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the West Indies. Despite the existence of a rule book there were still variations in the rules until 1960, when key Commonwealth countries met to standardize the rules and establish what is now known as the International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA). World championship events played every four years were also established. In 1995 netball was recognized as an Olympic sport and included in the Commonwealth Games program from 1998. Australia has since dominated the international competition.
The aim in netball is to score more goals than the opponents while stopping them from scoring. It involves seven players from each team playing on a rectangular hard indoor or outdoor court (100 x 50 feet) and uses a round ball, similar to a soccer ball. Each player has a specific position, with restricted movement allowed on the court. The game involves quick and accurate passing between team members, with the rules preserving netball's status as a noncontact and fast-paced sport. In many countries modified versions have been designed for junior players as young as 5 years old to provide a positive learning experience as they gain confidence and build up skills they need to play netball. These modifications vary and may include shorter playing periods, more flexibility on court positions, smaller balls, and lower goals.
Netball is a female-centered sport and is unparalleled in providing women with opportunities to be involved locally and internationally in all aspects of the game including playing, umpiring, and administering. As women's role in society developed through the World War II years and beyond, so did the game, with many more countries and participants now involved.
The game has spread to Asia and Africa and is the most popular sport for women in both Australia and New Zealand. Most netball is played in schools or in club teams affiliated with regional and national associations. While traditionally netball has been played only by girls and women, boys (in mixed teams) and men (in separate competitions) now also play. At elite levels, there is increasing professionalization of the game, with televised coverage of matches and players being paid.
Australia, Basketball (Amateur), Boy's Play, Girl's Play, United States, 1900 to 1930