Netball, not Nippleball in Utrecht

Well today it is the turn of Netball to feature in our pages. This will be a new sport to many of you and one that perhaps you should have a go at. It is a very traditional English game played in the UK mostly by women. In the southern hemisphere, a lot of men also play and that is starting to happen in the UK as well. to start a new sports club in a foreign country is tough. To start with as sport no on else has heard of is really brave, so perhaps you should visit the Utrecht Netball club to see what it is all about. Let me introduce you to Tanya.

Tanya is originally from South Africa but after living in the Netherlands for a little over seven years to date, she is now Dutch on paper. She came to the Netherlands because of a once in a lifetime work opportunity and fell in love with the culture and of course, Utrecht. Together with two other expat ladies from Australia, Brielle and Lauren  she started up the Utrecht Netball Club in October 2017 and officially registered with the KVK as a “Sport Vereniging” in February 2018. Recently the club has been boosted with the arrival of Joanne from England who is supporting them on the Financial and membership management of the club. The four women manage the club on a volunteer basis.

Tell us a bit about your club

Most of the Utrecht Netball Club members come from backgrounds of playing netball since they were young. Netball is an international ball sport mainly played in Commonwealth Nations, specifically in schools and is is predominantly played by women. However, in the last decade, the male participants have increased significantly where you will find teams of mixed gender and male only teams playing as well. Its development originated from early versions of Basketball, but soon it took on its own course of rules and game play over the past century.

Except for South Africans, New Zealanders, Australians and Brits coming to play, we’ve been blessed with other sporty expats who like us, were looking for a sport and social network of common interest. At present, we have Irish, Japanese, Hungarian and Austrian members who’ve joined us in the last year.

How many players?

We have 25 members. On a weekly basis we have about 14 to 17 players who turn up for training.

Unfortunately, the Club doesn’t have a junior programme at the moment. Seeing as most of our players are expats who moved to the Netherlands after school, for either studies, work or love, we only have adults over 18 years of age.

When and where are training nights

We train every Wednesday night at Sporthall Hart van Noord at Trumanlaan 60. With monthly matches against the only other netball club in the Netherlands, Amsterdam Netball which is usually on a weekend.

Do you want new players?

Yes! We are always keen on having people join us. Whether you haven’t played netball before, but you are a sporty type person with ball skills, or you haven’t played in a while, we welcome players from all levels. We see that especially players with a background in Korfball or Basketball can quickly adapt to the different rules and game play of netball after a few training sessions.

At what level?

Experienced and non-experienced. But a prerequisite is to play a sport whilst having fun,  and to have a good basic fitness level and some team ball sport experience.

What attracted you to play Netball?

I started playing netball in primary school when I was about 8 years old. It was just something you did. I spent many a winter-holiday growing up going to netball training camps and it has been a favourite pastime and hobby for as long as I can remember. I love the sense of belonging, comradery and friendships that are formed on and off the netball court. It is what we modern kids call #nesties these days

If you coach, why are you involved?

Brielle Jones is our in-house coach. She played at state-level in Australia, which is a huge deal. She  has netball in her blood and kindly offers her experience and enthusiasm to train us on skills and netball strategy. On the odd nights where she isn’t able to attend, myself, Lauren or Joanne will take the lead. I think we are all just so passionate about the sport and seeing how players evolve and grow over time, that we get satisfaction from hearing and seeing that people feel safe at our club and keep on coming back for more on a weekly basis.

Do you find many other teams to play against?

There is only one other netball club in the Netherlands and that is Amsterdam Netball. However, on a European level we’ve been able to play against similar experienced teams who host tournaments every year. Some of the teams are: Brussels, Luxembourg, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Paris, Rome and UK teams to mention a few.

How do the Dutch take to Netball?

To date we haven’t had too many Dutch players join us. I always find myself in situations trying to explain that sorta-kinda is like Korfball, but actually completely different. Most of the time, they think I’m saying “nipple” instead of netball. Or I also get a regular response of “don’t you mean handball”.

No, I don’t mean neither nipple nor handball, it is a complete different sport.

It is still very surprising to me that it hasn’t caught on more seeing as it is the number one ladies sport played in the UK which is not even a 40 minute flight from here.

Why did you move to Utrecht?

I live in Houten, just a 10-minute train ride from Utrecht. I chose the city because the company that I joined was based there. I personally prefer having the space and quietness of the suburb but also being able to be in Utrecht within a short commute. Most of our UNC members live in Utrecht.

What is your favourite place in Utrecht?

I love just walking down Oudegracht and taking in the atmosphere. In summer sitting on a terrace at one of the grachten restaurants drinking in the sunshine and excitement in the air.

Does Utrecht as a city do enough for sport in general?

We’ve had amazing support from the Gemeente Utrecht and especially the Vereeniging Sport Utrecht (VSU). They have offered financial support so that we could start up the club and buy equipment that had to be imported from the UK.

As well as sponsoring the lines on the first netball court in the Netherlands, which is now in Utrecht.

Without this, it would have been even harder for us to start up the club seeing as we have no financial backing nor sponsorship and hall fees are covered by membership fees and volunteer organizers input.

What about Netball, do they give you enough support?

To date, yes. However, we are always looking for sponsors and financial support to help grow the club even more. Not only in number of members, but in skill level. In March 2019 we will be hosting an English-Speaking pub quiz to raise some funds that we can use towards umpiring training, skills training from professionals, to purchase new uniforms and subsidized European tournament entries.

So there you are. the game is Netball. Played by anyone! You can get along to the Club to see what its all about. you can support the club in other ways as Tanya has said. but if you want something different from your sporting activity, maybe Netball is the game for you.

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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