Burnaby Provides Exposure to Netball
Over the Victoria Day long weekend, Burnaby once again hosted the Canadian Netball Championships at Fortius Sport & Health. It was an opportunity to showcase a sport that’s well-known in countries across the Commonwealth, but not top-of-mind in Canada. “I think we’re doing really well right now,” said Ann Willcocks, president of the BC Netball
Association. “We are really happy with the number of kids we have playing and we really feel that the only way we can grow is to get Canadian kids playing because netball is the largest sport for women in Commonwealth countries. But in Canada, it’s relatively new, because basketball is so big.” She added that getting the sport into the schools is the key to gaining more exposure.
Netball combines concepts from basketball and handball and is the most widely-played sport by women around the world with more than 20 million participants in more than 70 countries. The sport is a fast-paced passing game, using a hoop with no backboard. Players rely heavily on speed, agility, and teamwork. Two teams of seven players contest for possession of the ball, pass it and attempt to shoot for goal through 3.05-metre-high rings.
Team BC’s Megan Widmer got involved in high school in Burnaby when a friend told her about netball. “We were both playing basketball and she said it’s a sport where you don’t have to dribble. And neither one of us were good at dribbling in basketball, so I said, let’s try it out.” Since then, she’s been on the national team and has played around the world. But she appreciates the opportunity to play in Burnaby. “It’s so great to be home and having all the supporters here. Just to be home and have people come out and learn about the sport and to use this beautiful facility – it’s great to be here.”
Team Alberta vice-captain Ren Gargan said people are starting to learn more about the sport in her province. “I grew up in Australia and it’s a sport that girls play,” she said. “It’s a great social sport.” She added there are new opportunities in Alberta that invite men to play in mixed leagues.
Across the country in Quebec, the sport is also gaining more attention. Team Quebec head coach Marina Leigertwood said netball is mostly known by immigrants from other Commonwealth countries, but with summer camps for high school students and introducing it to teachers, more people are discovering netball. “We are trying our best to get exposure to the sport. We practice in schools. When people see it for the first time, they see that it’s very fast. It’s a true team sport.” She praised Fortius Sport & Health as a great venue for her sport. “We love this facility. We were here four years ago. It’s really nice because the gym is downstairs and we’re staying upstairs. It’s a central location for us.”
Team BC won both divisions: U23 and Open.
Netball is scheduled to return to Burnaby this fall with a series of three ranking games between teams from Canada and the Cayman Islands. It will be the first international netball event in the Lower Mainland.
Photos by: Darren Huang for the BC Netball Association