Young girls in south Queens now have an opportunity to play a different version of a familiar sport.
Netball, a form of basketball that is primarily played by women and girls, was added to the Department of Education’s Cooperative, Healthy, Active, Motivated, and Positive Students (CHAMPS) program, which provides a variety of sports and activities for youngsters in hundreds of public schools.
P.S./ M.S. 147 Ronald McNair in Cambria Heights and I.S. 192 The Linden school in Saint Albans are among a list of six schools in the city that are currently participating in a pilot program to introduce the sport.
“I’m so excited, because our goal was to get into the U.S. educational system,” Sonya Ottaway, president of Netball America, said. “It’s a great opportunity to get girls more active and just get them excited about sports again. It’s about giving them another option.”
Although Netball was invented around the same time as basketball, the sport is very popular in foreign countries, such as Australia, England and countries in the Caribbean. Now about 70 million people in 20 countries play the sport, according to stats from Netball America.
Netball, like basketball, mainly consists of shooting a ball in a hoop to score points. However, unlike basketball opposing players are not allowed to contact each other and there are seven instead of five players on each side of the court. Also, players on offense don’t dribble, but pass to advance the ball, and some players are redistricted to certain areas of the court.
Since mostly girls play the sport, traditional uniforms have skirts. However, boys can play the sport with shorts.
“Basketball is too rough and soccer or rugby girls shy away from it,” Ottaway said. “Because it’s none contact sport, boys and girls can play together. How many sports can you have boys and girls on the same court?”
Having the sport in the middle school system is significant, because netball organizations having been trying to grow it around the country for years. Ottaway hopes it will expand through children, who will grow with the sport.
“Right now we are starting with the middle schools,” Ottaway said. “We want to have everyone, but we are doing it piece by piece. Once [girls] see it, it’s going to pick up like wildfire.”
If the sport becomes popular, it’ll be added to other CHAMPS schools around the borough and in the city as well.