Tag Archives: series: phenomena of netball

Phenomena of netball – Part 2: Facial recognition and spatial awareness

After a two year hiatus I have returned to netball this summer for a short season. Returning once again to the sport that occupied my childhood and adolescence has brought fresh perspective to some interesting phenomena of netball. Here is the second in a series of three posts.

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Part 2: Facial recognition and spatial awareness

I had forgotten, in the intervening years, just how physical and embodied team sports actually are. They really do lift your social engagement to a whole new level of heightened physical awareness, and sensitivity to emotions, and careful analysis of others. Except that people are physically moving everywhere all over the place really fast and ferociously. And the emotions are driven by competition, reacting to every little thing that happens in the moment. And the careful analysis is not to understand the person holistically but to analyse their playing, to determine strategy, to beat them. So heightened, but much less personal.

My positions on the court are defence and goal keeping. Sometimes I play against a shooter that I really get, right from the moment we step on court. Those are the most fun games; I can tell exactly where she will go, and how she will move. When I play against these girls, they hardly ever get opportunities to score because I usually intercept passes to them before they can get into the circle. I can stand a metre or two in front of my partner, with my back to her, and know exactly where she is from the sound of her feet and the pattern of her past plays. I’ve noticed, after a few weeks in a row of partners like this, that I struggle to identify the girl I was playing against when it comes to shaking hands at the end of the game. After an hour of being able to plot her every move without looking directly at her, I’ll still have no idea what her face looks like!

Sometimes I play against shooters that really get me. They know exactly what I am going to do and where I am going to go. They run rings around me and get every goal into the ring. I feel like an idiot, waving my hands in the air, knowing that I cannot stop the inevitable. I know what the faces of these girls look like! Some of them are girls I played against as a teenager, their faces are still buried in my subconscious. I feel a tiny pang of fear when I turn up to the court, and see them, and recognise them. Memories of old, difficult matches come creeping back and wonder if she is now old enough – like me – to be on the downward spiral of fitness with a slowing metabolism. Hopefully she will be an easier opponent today? Nope. It hardly ever works out that way!

Such strange social interactions! Such a heightened awareness of others’ movements, such strong memories of faces, all driven by adrenalin! The thing that is so weird is that for all this heightened interaction I know none of their names, none of their stories. It’s all very unbalanced.

Phenomena of netball – Part 1: Gender and Uniform

After a two year hiatus I have returned to netball this summer for a short season. Returning once again to the sport that occupied my childhood and adolescence has brought fresh perspective to some interesting phenomena of netball. Here is the first in a series of three posts.

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Part 1: Gender and Uniform

One of the students I’ve had the pleasure to meet in my ministry this year is Becki – a wonderful pre-service PE teacher, a new follower of Jesus and a very thoughtful feminist. Listening to her talk about sport and women one afternoon my eyes were opened to a distressing trend:

When men wear particular items of clothing to play sport, they often become fashionable. Think converse shoes, baseball caps, football jerseys. However the clothes that women wear to play sport are often determined by fashion. Think hockey uniforms, beach volleyball uniforms. Are women really playing international beach volleyball in skimpy bikinis because it’s comfortable?

This observation is really just the stuff that appears on the surface, the fruit of a whole disturbing culture of sexism in sport. This phenomenon is tied to the reasons we watch sport, the way women’s sport is marketed, the way women are marketed. The only sport where I have seen women celebrated as (semi-)professional athletes, where games are broadcast on television and the players allowed to wear a comfortable uniform is football/soccer. Maybe cricket. In all other sports I can think of the women are either mocked for playing or participating, or they have to wear something ridiculous to be taken seriously.

About a month after this clarifying conversation I turned up at the netball courts for my first game and collected my uniform from my manager.

Oh my goodness. Continue reading