Mastering Korfball, the Dutch combination of basketball and netball

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Photo: Oxford Korfball
Photo: Oxford Korfball
Photo: Oxford Korfball

My first question after receiving an invitation to the Korfball Club’s practice session was “What on earth is korfball?” Reassuringly, this was the same reaction team captain Nina Murdoch had when she discovered the game during her first year at St Andrews. Bored of the usual run-of-the-mill sports that she had been playing at school (sorry, hockey), Ms Murdoch endeavoured to try something completely new at university. That’s what university is for, after all.

Korfball is a Dutch sport that combines elements of both basketball and netball, but it also has some key differences. One of korfball’s many selling points is that it’s one of the few sports in the world that is solely mixed-sex. The main aim of the game is to score in one of the daunting 3.5 metre high baskets whilst stopping the opposing team from doing the same. To put the size of the baskets into context for some of you, a netball net is about three metres high. Two teams of eight are divided into two divisions: attacking and defending. The defending division of one team faces the attacking section of another, and after two goals are scored, they swap sides. This means that all players are expected to attack and defend proficiently. The result is a simple yet also deeply tactical sport that is easy to pick up but very difficult to master.

Ms Murdoch decided to split the two-hour session into two halves: the first hour consisted of skill exercises, and the second involved competitive matches. Ms Murdoch simultaneously taught me and one other newcomer the basics of korfball whilst also keeping the rest of the more experienced class, some by only several weeks, entertained. It is a testament to her ability as a coach that those who had only been a member of korfball for a matter of weeks seemed very competent at the sport already. I even noticed an improvement in my game during the short time in her company. I have to say, the sense of achievement when you score your first basket is extremely rewarding.

Korfball is on the up. More and more people are taking up the sport, as shown by the recent establishment of a korfball team at the University of Strathclyde. Yet the great thing about the St Andrews Korfball Club is that its members don’t take themselves too seriously. One student said that she preferred korfball to basketball, as the basketball club at her high school put mundane training over having fun. Enjoyment is central to the Korfball Club’s aims. Members encourage a thriving social scene with weekly socials and fundraising activities such as bake sales. The majority of the Korfball Club had never heard of the sport before they started it at St Andrews.

Don’t let the lack of knowledge about korfball put you off, however, as it continues to grow in popularity. All of the members are extremely welcoming, and I had a fantastic time when I attended one of the club’s sessions. If you want to get involved, too, email korfball@saints-sport.com

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