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Emma Hilton

Emma Hilton

Nov 25
15 tweets

To all those who argue that female sports performance lags behind males for social reasons, I have a question. Why are males better at netball?

For those who haven’t been heavily-exposed to netball, think ‘basketball without dribbling’. Every girl in the UK, Australia, NZ, the Caribbean, large chunks of Africa, has been exposed to netball.
It’s the sport all women my age were streamed to at school. The thriving recreational netball scene I play in shows this has continued to younger generations. And quite rightly, because England are rather good at netball.
Netball was created as a female sport. It is a sport where the sex bias is so heavily-skewed to females, it has had a troublesome Olympic history, as it’s not widely-inclusive of males and likely that many countries could not reasonably field a male team.
It is a sport that has seen significant investment over the last couple of decades. The UK, AUS, NZ etc have professional leagues - super leagues of females paid to be brilliant at a sport which champions and showcases female athleticism.
The women that play international netball are as competitive and as professionally-coached and trained as one could find. It is a sport that males used to laugh at ;)
Of course, as the netball phenomenon (and the push for that first Olympic competition) grows, male teams have been formed. Good good, as long as the original Female Game for Female People keeps hold of the resources it has earned.
Netball requires, at most positions, height, speed, strength and stamina. It is a non-contact sport but contact happens. Players contesting balls will use physical prowess to win it.
So netball is a sport where males are not socialised to play, where the male game has been practically non-existent until relatively recently, and where the player pool from which to find your best is far smaller than in the female game.
But it is also a sport where we predict males will have athletic advantage regarding height, speed, throwing capacity, etc. And it seems that the male athletic advantage is sufficient to overcome the decades of not bothering to play, in a climate of no investment or reward.
A while back, I had the privilege of playing socially with a former England netballer. She told me that playing against males was a revelation - she’d assumed that having been one of the best females in a sport that unashamedly invests in females would count for more.
Baby males, relatively new to the game, were running rings around her. Her coach was a male with no remarkable netball career and twenty years of age on her - the same rings were run.
I’ve played in mixed leagues with men who never touched a netball before but whose partner needed a spare player at the last minute and he’s good at football so why not? 😂
Sure, I know how to play, how to trick, what the right pass is. I just can’t throw that pass as fast as a male, even who has only ever played a sport where your hand is the last place the ball goes.
It’s weird how males overcome that old sports socialisation effect so quickly. 🧐
Emma Hilton

Emma Hilton

Developmental biologist. All views are my own. Manchester. Peri-clownfish. Problematic around chocolate.
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