The origins of netball lay in early versions of women’s basketball. Basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith, a Physical Education Instructor from Massachusetts, USA. It was soon picked up by Sendra Benson, a teacher at a nearby Women’s college who adapted the game for play by females. Women’s basketball quickly spread in popularity across the United States.
By 1893 the game had spread to England, and Madame Osterberg, a teacher at a PE college in London, introduced a version of the game which was played outdoors and referred to as ‘net ball’.
The first rules of ‘net ball’ were published in 1901 and the game quickly spread across the British Empire, becoming popular and spreading through school systems wherever it went. The early 20th Century saw further spreading of netball’s popularity, particularly to Australasian countries. Many leagues and competitions were established.
The first official netball governing body was formed in 1926 – the All England Netball Association (AENA).
International competition was initially very difficult, as many different versions of the game were played around the world. This problem let to attempts being made in 1957 to standardise the rules. The International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA) was formed as a result.
Soon after this, in 1963, the first international tournament was held in Eastbourne, UK. The tournament is what we now know as the Netball World Championships, and is still held quadrennially.
Popularity of netball has maintained, and various elite leagues and competitions, such as the ANZ Championship and the Netball SuperLeague, take place around the world.
Despite the popularity, netball has never been included as a sport in the Olympic games. This is something which IFNA have been working hard to remedy, and netball was granted IOC Olympic sport status in 1995. Thus there is a real possibility that one day in the forseeable future we may see netball played at the Games.