What netball has taught me

(~4 minute read)

netballFurlan Club, Under 16s Netball Team, 1977.
I am kneeling, far-right, 12 years old.
My very first netball photo.  

My earliest recollections of netball are in primary school, playing on a full-size court that was painted onto the schoolyard concrete.  The court was alongside the convent and the art room.  Part of the court was actually on the “football field,” also on concrete and while not full-size and not marked out, the boys reminded us that this football field was there.  I can’t remember if we started playing netball in Grade 2 or 3, but I do remember loving the game.  I remember being so excited when our sport lesson would come around and the girls would play netball while the boys played football, and we would share the space.  I remember the excitement when we got the whole court to ourselves and played a full game.

We were outside, running around and playing with our friends.

Having two older sisters, I couldn’t wait to be just like them playing competitively at Royal Park, now the State Netball & Hockey Centre.

My sisters and I played with the Furlan Club, which is the Italian club that my parents were members of.  This club fielded at least 6 netball teams on Saturdays; my aunt played with her team, my sisters in their team, and me in my team.  I played at Royal Park for many years, playing with the Furlan Club for at least 10-12 years and making lifelong friends; some friends that I am still very close with today, and also friends that I have recently reconnected with, picking up where we left off.  While playing with the Furlan Club, there were changes to team members – new players introduced, others who left, and also merging teams.  This taught me the importance and benefits of adaptability … though I may not have felt that way at the time.  It taught me the importance of diversity in skills; flexibility to share positions and time on court; leadership and the value of fairness.  A number of us also decided to try our hand at basketball, learning additional skills and ways to play as a team.

While I played netball and basketball with the Furlan Club, I also competed in athletics with Preston Athletics Club and played netball with a representative team of the Victorian Catholic Netball Association (VCNA). During this time, I learnt the importance of discipline and being organised.  Training and competing with a number of different teams in different sports required that I kept on top of everything (including school study) and didn’t let anyone down – myself, teams, coaches nor family.

I learnt the skills of goal-setting, decision-making and prioritising … I also learnt I didn’t get these right all the time.

My goal setting, decision-making and prioritising were at times misaligned. This taught me the importance of reflection, managing my emotions and behaviour, and resilience.  I know I didn’t have this vocabulary at the time – at the time, I imagine my “inner critic” (I wouldn’t have had this phrase either) would have used words like “how could you not have thought about that?,” and “what you just said and did was pretty selfish.”  I also learnt that I could not do this alone and that I was not alone – in addition to their own sporting pursuits and responsibilities, my mum, sisters and brother were instrumental in supporting me in many different ways.

As I got older I played netball with my sisters, which was a dream come true! On the night that we played, a couple of the other players would inevitably have dinner with my family and then we’d head to Royal Park together.  This further embedded the value of community and especially, Mum’s never-wavering generosity and patience.  She never knew if there would be 1 extra mouth to feed or 3 extra mouths to feed. Needless to say, it was always noisy over dinner.

Most recently (approximately 17 years ago), I started playing netball with what will be my final team, Dimes Netball Team (originally The Internationals, we merged with Dimes within a few seasons).  Over the 17 years, we have had at least 30-40 players; today, there are still 2 of us who started playing together 17 years ago! Lessons learnt in my earlier netball days have been reinforced; new lessons learnt.  One of the most acute lessons learnt, is that while friends have chosen to stop playing, it has been a hard decision to make for many of them. Which brings me to why I am reminiscing about what netball has taught me …

After approximately 45 years of playing netball – summer and winter – I have hung up my skirt.  And it has been an extremely difficult decision to make.  It has been difficult because I love the sport.  This is the first competitive sport I played and (for now) it will be the last competitive sport that I play; I do value competition.  I welcome the opportunity to do the best I can on court and to be a part of everyone else – team members and competitors – doing the best they can.

I love that it gets me out, with friends, running around.  Hmmm, brings me full circle to why I loved netball all those years ago …

Additionally, Dimes Netball Team is also hanging up its skirts.  The time has come for friends to pursue other interests.  Be reassured, we are celebrating the end of this
17-year era in a few weeks, where players past and present will reconnect and more reminiscing will take place, no doubt.

There are so many more lessons learnt, not just from netball but from all the sports I have played and also been a spectator of, for which I am grateful as I have used these lessons through life.

What are some of the lessons you have learnt as a player and/or spectator?  How do you apply these lessons in other areas of your life?


P.S.  Do you like our uniform?  Being black and white, I thought it was pretty cool;  I am a Collingwood Football Club supporter after all!

P.P.S.  Notice we have a basketball in front of us, not a netball!?!  Oops …

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