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The rise of netball - Israel's misunderstood sport
TALI MINSBERG
11/15/2009
The rise of netball - Is
More Israeli athletes are learning to play, more international competitions are recognizing Israeli teams, and more umpires are becoming certified. All in a sport that is relatively new to Israel and unknown to the majority of the population, in contrast to its popularity in countries including Australia and South Africa. Introducing netball. It's not handball, or volleyball, or basketball, although it is frequently mistaken by Israelis for all three. The women-only sport consists of basketball-style hoops, with no backboards. Players play in an area roughly the size of a basketball court. But instead of dribbling, teams of seven run, jump, throw and catch to get the ball down the court into the goal area. Netball made its Israeli debut in 1993 during the 14th Maccabiah Games. However, the game did not gain popularity until 1999, when players started meeting around the country to play on basketball courts. Nine years later, in June 2008, Israel won its first international match, defeating Gibraltar at the European netball Festival . "Israeli netball is growing from strength to strength," according to Roni Kresner of Israel netball. "A few years ago, there were only two groups playing netball - one in Ra'anana, and one in Jerusalem. From next week, we will officially have five groups: in Ra'anana, Jerusalem, Ma'aleh Adumim, Modi'in and Tel Aviv," she said. All of this growth comes despite the lack of properly marked netball courts and government funding. It is the people that keep the sport alive in Israel, argued Michale Waller of the Central Jerusalem team. "Netball is a great form of exercise for us, but it also has had a very strong social element," Waller said. "This factor has held our group together and draws new people towards the game." Kresner noted that the non-contact sport has attracted a wide range of players - mothers and daughter, religious and secular, students and teachers. With new interest comes development and professional improvement, including the creation of professional coaches and umpires. Four women completed the Level C umpiring course during July, run by international umpires who were visiting to oversee the netball matches at the Maccabiah Games. Next week an English coach will run an official coaching course, allowing additional Israeli girls to be candidates to receive internationally recognized netball coaching qualifications. To the joy of netball players, the development of the sport is culminating in a major milestone for Israel netball, a first ever inter-city netball tournament to take place at the end of November. The growth of the sport is not credited to international competitions or professional coaching, however. It is the welcoming community that embraces players of all walks of life that allows netball Israel to prosper, many say. "The most important element for us is that the kids and women have a great time and feel good about themselves," Waller said. "We don't turn anybody away and encourage everyone to have a good time." For more information log on to www.israelnetball.org.il
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