The life lessons I learned playing netball.

lessons from netball
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I don’t remember why I so desperately wanted to play netball as a child. Maybe it was watching the state women’s teams play on the ABC with my Nan on a Saturday afternoon, or maybe it was because my best friend had moved schools and I was a bit lonely. But I couldn’t go past it.

My mum wasn’t so keen. She thought it would be too competitive and expensive and time-consuming. But I persevered and eventually convinced her to let me check out the local team.

In the end, I wasn’t the only one in the family who got into it. Mum loved to watch us play, and became our team photographer, darting around the outside of the court, catching all the action.

lessons from netball
The Mamamia netball team. Image: supplied.

Neither of us could have predicted how much of an impact the sport would have, but that’s one thing I certainly learned from all my years playing; team sports will always teach you something.

And not just on the court.

1. Winning is absolutely awesome, but it is not everything.

My first netball team wore a hideous brown skirt, lime green polo and white bibs with brown lettering. It looked like someone used their 1960s wallpaper as inspiration.  We were a bunch of kids who’d never played before and some of us had never even owned a ball. We looked out of place, felt out of place and had nothing to rely on apart from our camaraderie. For the first half of our first season we didn’t even score a single goal. Not. One.

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Then, one day three quarters deep and about 16 points behind, our GS took aim and the ball hovered a bit on the ring before tipping in. Not out, like every other time, but in. We celebrated so hard, the other team thought we had misunderstood what had happened.

Over the years, our team went on to win the championship twice, and we made the finals every year after that first disastrous year. What made us successful, as a team, were those early experiences, and the idea that you could still have a lot of fun on the court, even if you didn’t win.

2. Teamwork is hard and so very rewarding.

Being a successful team on the court meant we needed to try and be one off the court too. Our coach really encouraged us to be friends and work together as much as possible, at training and in our day-to-day lives. I made a lot of great friends playing netball, and my team partner (the GD to my GK) and I got to know each other’s play so well we didn’t ever have to call for the other one on court.

We were just there, everywhere we needed to be, every time we needed to be there. That’s the cornerstone of good teamwork, but it is also the foundation of good friendship and good work practice. Anticipating what you need to do, when you need to do it and getting it done is pretty much the most satisfying thing ever.

lessons from netball
Caitlin Bassett and Sharni Layton at the third International Netball Series. Image via Getty.

3. If you don’t have the right gear, you will be at a disadvantage.

In my first and second seasons playing netball I ended up sitting out six weeks of the season with a strained Achilles tendon. My ankles were basically my worst enemy. So my mum invested in some proper netball shoes for me, and with some careful strapping over the years the injury seemed long gone. But then I took up casual mixed netball as an adult and about half way through the season I fell hard on my ankle wearing $15 sandshoes and sprained it so badly I couldn’t even walk home.

When it finally healed I went straight to rebel and got fitted out with a proper pair of ASICS netball shoes that would support my ankles properly on court and help prevent further problems caused largely by my klutzy behaviour.

It was a lesson I shouldn’t have had to learn twice, but I did, and now I cannot stress enough how important it is to have the right shoes. It’s also really easy to get properly fitted and find the right netball shoe for you. The staff at rebel were a massive help and understood what I needed. They made sure that my shoes addressed my specific problems, and gave me the support my ankles needed.  I haven’t sprained an ankle or strained a tendon since.

lessons from netball
“It was a lesson I shouldn’t have had to learn twice, but I did, and now I cannot stress enough how important it is to have the right shoes.” Image: supplied.

4. Netball just gets better, the longer you play.

I’ve never been a serious netballer. I’ve played in some very good teams, and won some pretty hilarious trophies of women crouched at odd angles in pleated skirts holding a ball funny. But I never wanted to play for anything other than fun and a bit of exercise. Having said that, I’ve played netball on and off for almost 25 years, and there is no team sport I’d rather play.

I’ve played mixed, indoor, and outdoor, and for a few years I played on a gloriously-terrible team with a captain who would sink a few beers before every game. (We never won, not once.) But it’s energetic and lively and silly. It can be technical and strategic, brutal and mean. I’ve seen people break arms, knock heads and skin knees more often than I’d care to remember, and I’ve had way too many elbows in my ribs. Nothing beats it.  If you’re looking for a way to break the gym-yoga-running cycle, add some netball into the mix, it’ll be the best decision you ever made.

What lifelong lessons have you learnt through netball?

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