Selwyn mixed netball team after their victory against Sidney Sussex earlier this termAlex Berry with permission for Varsity

When I first took up mixed netball as a lowly Selwyn fresher, we only had enough players for a match once every two or three games, if that. That team would include a couple of men who’d played every now and again the year prior and one that was a complete beginner, if we were lucky. Now, Selwyn is consistently putting out a strong team consisting of a big group of regularly attending players who hold genuine enthusiasm for the sport.

This isn’t a trend only seen with Selwyn’s team. Despite remaining in the third division in the league throughout my time playing, the standard of play has noticeably improved as the seasons have gone on. Many teams now have shooting pairings that are so in sync that it seems like they’ve been playing together for years, or centres that read the game like an open book, almost being able to intercept the ball before it’s even left your hands. But what is it that’s bringing on this change?

The concept of mixed netball isn’t something I had really considered before university. Coming from a school environment which massively stereotyped netball as a ‘girly sport’ where you slowly jog around the court profusely apologising to anyone you bump into, it hadn’t really occurred to me that there would be enough of an interest from men to allow for an entire mixed league between colleges. I can only recall playing mixed netball once at school in a GCSE PE class, a class that was quite rapidly diverted to a different sport as the chaos of trying to convince 15-year-old boys to play a ‘girl’s sport’ that was ‘just a bad version of basketball’ was quickly revealed.

It feels like this barrier is slightly lessened at university, with many people arriving more willing to try a brand new sport. Netball lends itself well to this, as although the rules may first appear complicated, if you can throw and catch a ball you tend to get the basics pretty quickly. Given that netball is rarely offered to boys in school, few men come to university with any prior experience, making this especially relevant to mixed netball. For many players, netball is taken up as a second sport, but I think this can definitely play into the hands of many players; some of the best players I know are avid footballers, cricketers or basketballers too.

Last year saw the hosting of the inaugural men’s netball Cuppers in a round robin tournament. From the afternoon of matches, Pembroke emerged victorious, their well-drilled and fast-paced play paying off as they took a clean sweep of their matches. The fact that the tournament could take place at all, not to mention the high standard of play throughout, is a testament to how much more popular men’s netball has become in recent years. Hopefully, it will continue to gain popularity.

The establishment of the Cambridge University Men’s and Mixed Netball Club is one product of the increased popularity of the sport, and one that aims to continue to accelerate its growth. Having only been established in Easter term 2023, the team is currently in the midst of gaining the proper accreditation as a university sports team, and offers players the opportunity to train and improve their skills outside of the weekly college matches.


Mountain View

Buckle up, BUCS is back!

Captain Connor McAteer had never played netball before university, taking it up on the recommendation of a college parent, but has not looked back since. Speaking on the future goals of the club, he commented that the aim is to “retain inclusion of all abilities and commitment levels to netball, while providing competitive matches for a firsts and a seconds team”. These competitive matches begin in a week’s time as the first team takes on Warwick University (19/11). Connor hopes that the team will make an “inspirational debut” on the university mixed netball scene, and will aim to play several more of these matches throughout the year.

I may be biased, but I do think that the uptake of men’s and mixed netball is down to widening awareness of the sport as a whole and how good of a sport it actually is. The friends that I’ve convinced to give it a go (after weeks or months of gentle prodding) have all become heavily involved with the team, actively looking forward to playing matches at the weekend. Having more regularly attending players quite quickly improves the standard of play, and those particularly keen players now have an extra outlet to train and play with the university team. Breaking down the stereotypes so perpetuated in schools around the country is only a good thing, so I hope to see the mixed netball scene in Cambridge continuing to grow.