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History, netball history, history of netball, the history behind netball, history of international netball

Netball traces its roots to basketball, which explains why its rules are related. When James Naismith devised basketball in 1891 for his students in the School for Christian Workers (later called the YMCA), female teachers got curious and started to formulate a version for girls. The outfits of women back in the day hindered them from effectively executing important basketball moves such as running and dribbling, so the game had to be modified to accommodate these restrictions. Women’s basketball, or ‘netball,’ was conceptualized.

Netball was first played in England in 1895 at Madame Ostenburg's College and quickly spread to all the British Commonwealth territories, but it did not yet have hard-and-fast rules. So loose were the regulations, in fact, that some games were played by nine players in each team, while some were played with only five players in each. The nets used were also ineffective – they were not open at both ends, so after each goal was scored, the umpire to retrieve the ball from the top of the post.

Finally, Clara Baer, a gym teacher from New Orleans, asked Naismith for a copy of the basketball rules, identified the areas within which women players can move, and consequently introduced the ‘zoning areas’ we know today. This was the start of netball’s formalization. This zoning rules along with many other provisions (such as elimination of the dribbling rule) were all included in the first draft of ‘Rules for Women’s Basketball.’ In 1901, this set of rules was ratified and netball officially became a competitive sport.

Netball soon spread throughout then-British colonies of Australia, Jamaica, and Antigua. Further improvements were introduced some 60 years later by the International Federation of Women's Basketball and Netball – an international organization composed of netball representatives from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and The West Indies. The first Netball World Championship was held in 1963 in Eastbourne, England, and since then, international netball championships have been held every four years.

Australia has dominated the World Tournaments, beating the other 11 teams competing in 1971, 1975, 1979, 1983, 1991, 1995 and 1999. In 2003, New Zealand finally broke the pattern and took home the gold. Fiji will host the next World Netball Championship in July 2007.

Netball is still very popular in former British colonies. In fact, approximately 10,000 people play netball in Jamaica, and it remains to be the favored women's sport in the country. Antigua and Barbuda is also very active in the sport. Netball is one of its major sports, next only cricket and alongside football and volleyball.

Now, netball is played by both men and women. In fact, mixed teams are becoming acceptable, because the fundamentals of the game allow men and women to compete with each other on fair terms. The limits set by netball rules on defense prevent men from gaining an advantage, in spite of their superior strength and size.