How to Play Netball

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What You Need to Know

    1. More and more men are taking up the game of netball.
    2. There are seven players on each side with an additional five on the bench for substitutions
    3. Each team during a game of netball can make as many substitutions as they like.
    4. To pass the ball during a netball game, the player MUST be standing still.
    5. There are seven different positions in a game of netball. Each player has a specific job to do. These are defined below.
    6. There are various types of passes that need to be learnt e.g. the lob, chest and overhead pass.






Owing to the restricted contact and less vigorous movements involved in the game, netball has often been viewed as a woman’s sport. However, in recent times, more men have embraced the game and now, there are almost as many men as there are women who are interested in it.

The sport involves two opposing teams with seven players each, but due to its fast pace, 5 extra players stay on the side and may get injected at different points of the fixture. Nonetheless, like any other game, netball has its rules and there are specific issues that players have to adhere to as they take part in the game.

The Rules

Netball is comparable to basketball only that while players are required to dribble and run with the ball in basketball, whoever is passed the ball in a netball game has to stop and then pass it to a different player without moving. The netball court in which the teams play is usually divided into three sections, and players have to remain within certain parts of these sections as they play.

When playing netball, players cannot snatch the ball out of each other’s hands; neither can the ball be tapped from the possessor’s hands. A defending player can only get hold of the ball after it has left the holder’s hands and they must be three feet away from the person holding it. On taking the ball, a player is required to shoot or pass it to other players of their team within three seconds and as they do this, their landing foot has to remain in position. Even so, shooting is an aspect that is only left to players holding the Goal Shoot and Goal Attack positions.

Whenever the ball is thrown outside the court, the team that last possessed it has to give the ball to the defending team and in doing so, they have to stand at the point where the ball went out and pass it to another player inside the court. Umpires stay in charge of a netball game to look out for contact between players among other things. A typical match will have two umpires, with one on each side of the court. Netball is a no-contact sport meaning where contact is made, the umpire will point it out and penalty will be issued to the offending player.

Objectives of the Game

A netball game lasts for a 60 minute period but is divided into four segments of fifteen minutes each. The aim of playing a netball game is to score as many goals as possible within this time in order to beat the opposing team. To achieve this however, team strategy has to be maintained, with coordination, speed and agility being very essential. To make their team score high, each member has to play their role well regardless of their designated playing position.

Playing Positions

Netball involves players in different positions and these include the: 

    • GK -Goal Keeper
    • GS -Goal Shooter
    • GA- Goal Attack
    • GD -Goal Defence
    • C -Centre
    • WA -Wing Attack
    • WD -Wing Defence

These positions determine how players can move around the netball court. The Goal Keeper serves as the final line of defence, and aims to keep the Goal Shooter from the opposing team from scoring (goal shooters are principally in charge of scoring goals). The GK also intercepts passes and has to therefore be alert so that they are able to collect rebounds. Due to the fierce role they play, players who take the GK position are often tall and well-built.

The GD, who is the Goal defence, is responsible for keeping the ball out of the goal circle which is considered the danger zone. This player has to be keen on the movement of the opposing team’s Goal Attack and they must be on guard at all times to be able to block attackers and pass the ball to their team members at the same time.

The Wing Defence role is to keep the ball from getting to the other team’s goal circle. They must therefore intercept as the opposing team makes passes and then pass the ball back to team mates within the attacking area. Players in this position must also focus on the Wing Attack as they pass the ball .WDs are not allowed into the goal circle.

Centres control both the attack and the defence and they can play in any area of the court with the exception of the goal circle. Their team relies on them to move the ball into attack and they also take charge of restarting the game whenever a goal is scored. Centres have to be swift and good at dodging. For this reason, they are often among the smallest team members.

The Wing Attack has to create scoring opportunities for their team, and they do this by getting the ball to the shooter. The Goal Attack, on the other hand, has to pass the ball to the shooter to ensure that the shooter is as close as possible to the goal post while shooting. However, most times the shooter will be marked by defenders and in such cases, they have to shoot from a point around the circumference of the goal circle.

Starting the Game

Before a netball game begins, a coin may be tossed to determine the Centre that will first pass the ball. From this point on, the centre passes alternate after each score regardless of the scoring team. The Centre must be in their right position before the whistle is blown and they must also adhere to footwork rules after the whistle. If a player obstructs the centre pass by moving to this area before the whistle or if the Centre delays play, the opposing team may be awarded a free pass.


In playing netball, players can make use of a number of passes to give their team an advantage over the attacking players. These passes comprise of the short, centre and penalty passes. As the name suggests, the short pass involves a pass made within a very short distance such that an opponent cannot manage to seize the ball. Centre passes are on the contrary, made from the centre once either of the team scores. Penalty passes occur when a penalty is issued.

As netball participants pass the ball to team members, they may also use the following styles:

    • Overhead passes
    • Chest passes
    • Lob passes
    • Underarm passes
    • Bullet passes
    • Bounce passes

The overhead and chest passes are carried out in a similar manner in that while the chest pass is achieved by holding the ball around the chest area before releasing it, the overhead pass is accomplished by holding the ball closely and passing it over the head. Lob passes are achieved by first holding the netball behind the head and then releasing from a point above the head, in an arc. This pass is ideal for a passer who may be aiming to get the ball away from a defender within close proximity.

Where a player intends to make an unexpected move, the underarm pass may be applied –this is unlike the bullet pass in which the ball is passed directly and quickly using one hand. To execute a bounce pass, a player will lower themselves to the ground with the ball at the height of their hips and then step forward and release it at the same time. Bounce passes can be made when there is limited space due to confinement by opponents, and to maximise on it, a lot of force has to be applied.

Each netball player has to master a number of passes. The Goal Attack and the Wing Defence should for instance, know how to execute lob passes. The goal keeper should in contrast, be able to carry out penalty passes.


Footwork is a very important aspect of netball and players have to pay a lot of attention to it as they would positions and passes. Where a player drags or steps the grounded foot when they are not supposed to, the involved team may lose possession. Thus, players should work on their footwork during warm ups and drills to avoid penalties and also ensure safe stopping.

Making Substitutions

During a netball game, player substitution and team change may be made based on certain rules. Team change involves the switching of positions by players who are already in the field but substitution entails getting one player off the court and replacing them with another from the bench. Both team changes and substitutions can be made during breaks, though in case a player falls ill or gets injured in the course of a game, a substitute may take their position.

There are no limitations as to the number of times that team changes or substitutions can be done. However, no other player may be included apart from those who were registered for the specific match prior to the commencement of the game. Also, if a match begins with 5 or 6 players and other team members arrive later, they may not join the game until the next centre pass.


A netball court surface has to be flat, even, non-slip and preferably, hard. The court should have a goal post on each side, with netted goal rings attached to each post .These posts are usually 3.05 metres, but will often be shorter where younger players are involved. Some netball posts are freestanding and can therefore be moved from the court when not in use –these can be used for both indoor and outdoor games. However, some posts are fixed using screws and this means they can only be used on the same location throughout.

Netball players have to wear bibs given that this is the only way that spectators and especially referees can distinguish them and tell whether they are playing in their right positions or not. These items are generally made of breathable fabric and players on opposing teams wear different colours for even better distinction. Apart from bibs, players must acquire protective shorts, socks, tops and netball shoes to ensure comfort as they get on with the game.

Individuals of different age groups can engage in netball games. Even so, younger players will often be between the ages of 8 and 10, and not younger. For such players, a smaller ball size may be used though size five is the standard size for a regular netball team. During practice however, the team may use heavier balls to make their wrists stronger and improve their agility and passing abilities as well.

Maintaining Fitness

Sports such as netball require high levels of fitness and alertness and the only way to achieve this is by going for training. Hence, in addition to training with team mates, it’s also advisable for players to enrol in fitness centres so they are able to receive guidance on how to improve their overall fitness. In doing so, they can also benefit from diet programmes suited to their individual needs. Strength and endurance training are some of the training programmes that may be offered to netball players.

General Facts about Netball 

    • Netball and basketball posts are equal in height
    • A goal in netball is worth one point
    • Netball courts measure 100 by 50 metres
    • A team can be made up of 12 players, but only seven can take part in a game at any given time
    • Of the seven, a minimum 5 are required for a game to go ahead
    • Players in each position have their defined playing areas in the court
    • Netball players are forbidden from dribbling the ball
    • Players may switch positions in any quarter of the game
    • An opposing team doesn’t have to be notified about changes
    • Where substitutes obstruct the game in any way, a penalty in the form of a free pass may be awarded to the other team.



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