Author Heidi Rice talks about her not-so-secret passion for a sport she hated in school, but now plays once a week with a group of like-minded mums in a team... And sometimes wins!
If you’re anything like me you would have hated playing team sports at school. In my case I particularly loathed and despised playing netball... Which we play in British schools but which Americans and most Europeans know sod all about (think basketball meets handball.. sort of).
All I remember from my school days was all those rules that I didn’t understand; the silly little gym skirts I had to wear that showed my pants every time I jumped; and those Amazon sports goddesses who always picked me last for their team (with good reason) and then proceeded to pass the ball over my head and make me look like a total idiot.
Well, a good twenty years after I was freed from the indignities of playing a game that I didn’t understand and was utterly rubbish at I was lured back into the fold — and discovered, much to my amazement, that netball is actually a fantastic team sport: fast-paced, fitness inducing, competitive and most of all fun — and the rules aren’t nearly as mind-boggling as you might think once you have the help of a good umpire.
I play for The Agents, a team of mums who originally got together when our kids were all in the same primary school.
Back then, we used to meet up once a week to play in an outdoor league - cue: cold wet rainy windswept Tuesday nights in an empty school playground with your fingers feeling like icicles and the kids going feral on the sidelines.
|Pretty invincible in pink (we wish): The Agents ready for action|
Ten years later we're still at it, the kids these days are going feral on their own and we play what's called versatility netball which means it's indoors (Yay!), there's only five players (which keeps you on your toes) and you change positions each time your team scores (very good for keeping dementia at bay when you're struggling to figure out whether you're the shooter or the goalkeeper - and which way were we shooting again?).
We’re all women of a certain age and we love playing together which, in our view, is more important than winning — although we do like to win too. A few team members have gone and others have joined over the years and we've seen each other through house moves, job moves, milestone birthdays, sickness, health and some pretty ignominious defeats — mostly against aggressively competitive Aussies with thighs of steel who are half our age! — but we still carrying on going every week.
I love these women and I love playing with them, and even though I'm still pretty crap at the actual game itself, once in a while I'll drop that perfect shot, make a great intercept or snag a rebound and feel young and fit and agile again (the way I never did when I was actually young, fit and agile). It's a great feeling....
But no doubt about it, my old gym teacher Miss Emmens would die of shock if she knew!
Heidi is currently working on her first book for Tule Publishing, which will be out in June and is part of the Fairy Tales of New York quartet featuring stories by Kelly Hunter, Amy Andrews and Lucy King too.