Korfball has a stand out feature: it is inherently mixed. The teams of eight that play the Dutch cousin of netball and basketball have to be comprised of four men and four women. “It makes for a great club atmosphere” explains Alice Thomson, a third year LMH student and veteran member of OUKC. “I was a keen netballer before I came to university and had heard of korfball through my netball coach who had suggested that I give it a try. I played one match, enjoyed it but thought nothing more of it until I came to university and saw the OUKC stand at freshers’ fair and signed up.”
It is easy to see how the sport itself fosters the social side of the club. As Alice explains the details of korfball it becomes clear that its rules breed inclusivity. First, there is the aforementioned mixed nature of the sport. Alice describes how, “It means that some of the competitive intensity that can come with single sex sports is diminished”.
Second, players must switch between attacking and defending roles regularly during the match. Every time two goals are scored the players swap ends. Therefore everyone gets to do the parts of the game that they enjoy and have to find a way to contribute to the team when doing those that they do not enjoy as much. Additionally, it removes coveted positions – no ‘number 10’s or ‘goal attack’s – and equally so avoided ones – no goalkeepers – and so the rigmarole and potential fallout of assigning those contested positions is avoided.
A final sneaky rule which disallows shots to be taken when the player with the ball is being ‘defended’ – a term of art – encourages skilful build-up play. It also gives those of us that cannot match our competitors for height more of a chance than will typically be the case in the similar sports of basketball and netball.
Individuals also have an opportunity to show off their particular skill set in the korfball gameplay. “Everyone has some strength that they can use in the game, whether it be speed and fitness or strength or good movement and tactics or shooting.” There is one essential skill, however – “Throwing and catching is pretty important”.
OUKC play at a good standard. They won the inaugural Town v Gown match last year and placed third in the Oxford city tournament. At the university level, they won five out of six games in the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) korfball trophy last season. Meaning that they came ninth out of sixteen teams. Alice herself has also recently made it to the Welsh korfball squad which is an impressive achievement for someone that has only been playing for two years.
It is unsurprising to hear that korfball was invented by a school sports teacher. Probably keen to get those pupils involved that normally end up on the fringes of many other sports where basic physical endowments often tell, it enables widespread participation. So for those looking to enjoy all the pleasures of sport – endorphins, teamwork, skills and tactics and the all-important trip to the pub afterwards – and avoid the displeasures – exclusivity, the requirements of physical gifts and unnecessary competitiveness – there are worse places to start than OUKC.
If you are inspired then training is 9 to 10.30 pm on Wednesdays and 11-12.30 am on Sundays at Iffley. You can also email [email protected] or look up the very active Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OxfordUniKorf/. I’ll see you there.