National Pastimes: Queens Women Take Top Spots In Local Netball League
As NY1 continues its week-long look at non-traditional sports being played in the city's parks, many top players in netball, the world's most popular women's team sport, are also Queens residents. Borough reporter Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
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At first glance, it may seem like a group of women in St. Albans, Queens are playing basketball, but there's no backboard and there's no dribbling. They are playing netball, a game many of these women learned growing up in the Caribbean.
"I always loved the sport of netball from back in school when I was taught and I just developed a love for it," says netball player Sandra Gurdon Matthews.
The women play for the Crusaders Netball Club. Many are former top players from Jamaica, like the club's president, Cislyn Beckford, who refused to move to the United States until a national league was established in the early 1990s.
"I heard that some of my friends were playing here and so I said okay since there is netball now I can make the move," says Beckford.
While netball is big among immigrants from former British colonies, most Americans never heard of it, even though it was invented here in the 19th century. Some New Yorkers who play basketball are getting an introduction.
"Even watching it is kind of complicated, but now that I know how to play it I'm more comfortable," says netball player Aisha Harriott.
Each team fields seven players and each player is assigned a position limited to certain areas of the court, with two attacking and two defensive players allowed in the shooting circle.
With netball courts in most of the boroughs, players are pushing to bring the game into city schools.
"They don't know about netball as we do in Jamaica, so it's good to bring the game from there to here to make it more competitive and show them what good times we have in Jamaica," says netball player Michelle Murray.
The Crusaders, founded in 1990, is the city's oldest netball organization. It has nearly 50 members and a large following during tournament play.
"The park is usually crowded with a lot of people, local and overseas as well as all across the country, come and support us," says head coach Kunkell Blaine.
The club practices every Tuesday night and Saturday mornings in O'Connel Park and they also play across the city and across the country.