Byline: By Louise Bailey Western Mail
Mention the word netball and you think schooldays. Those big gym knickers, those unflattering pleated short skirts, cold weather and the sooooo attractive goosebumps and corned-beef legs.
But, apparently I've got it all wrong. These days the game is developing into a hugely popular sport for women, you know, the 20, 30, 40 and 50-somethings of us.
Women across Wales are swapping their evenings sat in front of the TV for an energetic game of catch, throw and 'footwork'. Remember that?
Why are they doing it, you might add? Well, it could have something to do with the 700 calories an hour you'll burn off with all the running, jumping, throwing, catching, attacking, defending and shooting goals.
As well as burning calories, you can tone up, improve stamina and flexibility and improve your social life. There are also numerous benefits to exercising regularly such as a healthier heart, boosting your immune system and managing the stresses of everyday life better.
In addition to the physical benefits, netball can also offer a great mental boost. Like any exercise, netball will release endorphins in your brain, instantly improving your mood.
So what's it all about? If the only thing stopping you pulling on your pleated skirt again is the fact you don't know the rules, then listen up. It'll all start flooding back. (They still wear those pleated skirts by the way, but as most leagues play indoors you don't have to endure the corned beef legs or the cold!)
The rules are simple. There are seven players in each team on court at any one time and each player has a position - Goal Shooter, Goal Attack, Wing Attack, Centre, Wing Defence, Goal Defence and Goal Keeper.
Some positions are quite specialised and have a specific purpose. For example, only the Goal Shooter and Goal Attack are allowed to shoot the goals and only the Centre can restart the game after each goal is scored - is it all rushing back to you from your school days?
The Welsh Netball Association (WNA), Governing Body for Netball in Wales, can boast 3,800 individual members as well as schools and colleges affiliated to them. It deals with all aspects of netball starting with the primary schools dragon netball, then secondary schools and junior and senior clubs. It organises a large number of championships and recognised coach and umpire education courses.
Sue Holvey, chief executive of the Welsh Netball Association, said, 'Netball has always been a popular girls' game in school. One of the reasons is that it is easy to organise because you don't need many facilities - find your posts, ball and a court and off you go. Throughout the world the game is played on different surfaces. In Wales, it is mainly played outdoors or on an indoor court but in some islands in the Pacific and Caribbean they regularly play on grass. This shows it is a very adaptable game.'
'Netball is a good form of physical activity as it involves all aspects of fitness from aerobic capacity to strength, speed and agility, power and flexibility. Depending on position played, aerobic capacity is improved through raised heart rates over a sustained period of time from 15 to 60 minutes. This means cardiovascular fitness is improved which can have benefits for overall general health and weight loss.'
The WNA is working in partnership with 15 unitary authorities on different community projects with girls to promote the team sport. It is also setting up new out of school junior leagues.
Sue added, 'The sport is popular in schools and most schools have a link to a local junior and/or a senior club. There is a good structure within both schools and clubs throughout Wales. Welsh Netball has a 'player pathway' for all netballers starting at primary school level right up to elite international players. The top level netball athlete trains as any other invasion game athlete, such as international rugby and football, usually six days a week, but fitting it in with everything else. …