Posted by: scribe9 | May 10, 2010

By another name, not the same

Autumn and winter are when rugby gets especially intense around here. While there are female rugby teams (the national team is the Black Ferns; the men’s is the All-Blacks), the main cold-weather sport for women and girls is netball (the national team is the Silver Ferns). Never heard of it? It’s mainly a Commonwealth game. American women of a certain age would recognize it as close kin of the old-style girls’ basketball.

A very long time ago, I grew up in a neighborhood with lots of kids and lots of basketball hoops. I’d also been to see some boys’ games at the local high school.  I was shocked when I got to junior high school and had to play with six players to a side, limited movement, few players allowed to shoot, and no dribbling. If we could play full-field soccer, why did we have to play such a pathetic version of basketball? I still remember the day in 1970, in high school PE, when we finally got to play five players to a side, using the whole court. Free at last!

The old-style game was of course developed to protect the delicate flowers girls were assumed to be. (When I was in junior high, the longest race in girls’ track was half a mile; in high school, it was three-quarters of a mile. Title Nine was nowhere in sight.) New Zealand originally required nine players on a side, although now it’s only seven. Netball is pretty much a passing game, with little guarding of the shooter, who has to be near the backboardless basket.

I’ve seen the previews for games between Australia and New Zealand–it’s a lot of jumping up and down and passing. One of my daughters had an Australian friend who was the daughter of a pediatric orthopod, and she bragged that netball had the second-highest rate of ACL tears of any sport (the highest was Australian Rules Football). Somehow, that didn’t sell us on it.

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