Hockey is the most popular sport in Canada without a doubt. Canadians see it as part of their culture to play and watch it. However this country might be missing out on a sport that is just as exciting as hockey but less painful to play.
That sport is netball. The game of netball is commonly played at post-secondary schools in most Commonwealth countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies.
Netball is very much like basketball; there are two hoops, two teams and the objective is to score by shooting a ball through the hoops. The main difference between the two sports is that in netball the field is divided into thirds and for the team to score they must go through all the pieces of the field in order to shoot. There is also no dribbling allowed in netball so the player with the ball will have to pass it to a teammate after taking a single step.
The Cosmopolitan Netball Club in Scarborough started in 1972 and has been holding its practice sessions at Robert Service Sr. Public School at 945 Danforth Rd.
The current president of the club is Julie Tripp, 74.
“The membership has been going up and down over the years,” she said. “It’s mostly a Commonwealth game, but in the United States it’s really coming along.”
Tripp used to live in the United Kingdom where netball is played by girls in post-secondary school, so she naturally got into to it. However, when she moved to Toronto nobody was really playing netball, which prompted her to start the club.
“We play at a recreational level. Most of the girls in our club are English, Scottish, New Zealander, Australian and we have some Canadian but netball is primarily played by Commonwealth countries (so there are more people in the club from those places),” she said.
Although Canada is indeed a Commonwealth country, netball hasn’t been as popular as other sports here because it’s not widely played by students in physical education programs.
But Tripp said that may soon be changing as more people in North America are getting into the sport.
“We’ve heard that universities in the United States are forming a league and I think it will pick up [in popularity],” she said.
The club has become more recreational over the years because many of its members have other obligations. At the present, the nature of the club is more geared towards providing guests and members with a cardio workout without the physical contact that some may encounter playing other sports.
The club also plays recreational games against teams from the United States that are close to Toronto.
“We prefer to play other teams at our level. We play teams from Windsor, Ann Arbor and Detroit,” she said.
The Cosmopolitan netball club offers a “play as you go” membership which is $5 per session or newcomers can pay $100 for a year. The club has been using the gym at the public school since it was first opened 40 years ago.
Sue Lisy, 65, is another club member who came to Canada from Reading, England.
Lisy was surprised that Canada didn’t have the same netball scene as other Commonwealth countries.
“I expected to be playing netball but there was no netball,” she said.
She started playing in Toronto when she attended a Cosmopolitan Netball Club meeting in downtown Toronto which she had found out about in a newspaper.
“The article was basically calling all netball players and when I went to that meeting they placed people into different areas with clubs,” she said.
Initially Lisy joined the Scarborough club while she lived in North York but it turned out to have too many players so she joined the East Toronto club. When that club folded, Lisy found herself playing for the Cosmopolitan club in Scarborough once more.
“I try to promote the netball club. I got one of the players to come out last year for the first time. I met her in the yacht club, we got talking and I asked her if she played then she said ‘I love netball!’,” she said.
Rebecca Crumlish, 63, is the coach of the Cosmopolitan Netball Club. She used to live in Scotland before coming to Toronto so she also has a similar experience with netball as the other players.
Crumlish starts the training sessions by getting the players to do several laps around the gym followed by some basic warm up stretches.
“We have an actual camaraderie going on, we’re always helping with kids, grandkids,” she said. “It’s a fun group. We are always welcome to new players.”
Crumlish said that on top of netball she plays golf and tennis with some of her fellow club members and they also engage in social events outside of the gym.
The club plays in an annual season that runs from October until the end of April.
“We try playing in the summer but it’s too hot, so we just play from October until April,” Crumlish said.
This year, the team is holding a tournament to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The tournament will take place on April 21 in the gym at Robert Service Sr. Public School.