Netball comes to Cobb PE classes

Olympic-recognized sport sounds better than dodge ball
Aneika Henry from WNBA Atlanta Dream

Forget dodge ball. Netball is the newest thing to hit Georgia gymnasiums. It’s a popular sport—even outside of PE class—in other parts of the world, including Australia, the Bahamas, and Singapore. It’s even Olympic recognized, so even though it’s not being played now in the games, it’s eligible to be played in the future. The U.S. Open National Netball Championships will take place November 8 through 10 at McEarchen High School in Powder Springs.

Tracy McCall, a PE teacher at Mabry Middle School in East Cobb, started playing netball with her students last Friday. We asked her to explain the game.

How does netball work?
It’s kind of like basketball, because you have to shoot the ball into a basket. It’s also similar to maybe lacrosse or soccer in that it has certain positions that only certain players can play. And it’s unlike football or basketball where you can run anywhere freely. What that does is make it so one person cannot hog the ball. It slows the game down some to a fundamental level instead of a hot shot, showoff kind of game.

What’s the appeal of the sport?
They did it as part of our pre-planning teacher training at the beginning of the year here in Cobb County. We got to actually play it and I had a blast. Part of the draw is that it’s so different than our typical American basketball or soccer or any other sport we play. That made it challenging and different.

Is it hard to understand or do the kids pick it up pretty quickly?
The kids who play team sports who have a knowledge of offense and defense are picking it up fairly easily. Individual sports athletes are struggling more. They’re not used to having teammates to pass or throw to. It’s been challenging for me because I’m having to work on new teaching strategies to get those individual sports players and those who don’t play sports involved.

What about the kids who absolutely dread gym class?
It’s really good because the rules level the playing field. It will allow the complete beginner to be successful. It doesn’t matter if they’re not super athletic. There’s no contact allowed which makes a player that would typically be timid in a football or basketball type of game feel more safe.

How is it different than other sports or games you play?
The ball is like a combination volleyball and soccer ball and the players use only their hands. Probably one of the most unique things is that there is no backboard. It’s just a solid post with the basketball net on the top. You have to be more of a finesse shooter because you have no backboard for it to bounce against. Everything is a swish.

Do the kids like it?
There are some that are taking to it like crazy. After they saw the video and the rules, they just jumped right in. But there are kids who even are traditional athletes that were hanging back because they’re so good at some of the other sports they may be afraid at some of the failure they may see because it’s so new. They’re good athletes but they’re not risk takers. Once they get it, they’ll be unstoppable and awesome.

Is it better than dodge ball?
Anything is better than dodge ball. In Cobb County, we are not allowed to play dodge ball. You’re not supposed to play games that use kids as targets.

How often do you introduce new sports in PE?
It is rare. One of my goals has been to introduce a new game every three years into the curriculum. I realize the reason people don’t want to is because it’s hard to introduce new games. What’s unique about this is that hardly anyone plays it.