Almanac Netball: A Performance for One

He stands at the intersection of four courts, with just a wheelie bin for company. T-shirt, shorts, runners, backpack hanging off his shoulders and a cap (it pays to be sun-smart at Saturday netball).

His focus is fixed firmly on one court, completely oblivious to everything and everyone around him. The match, between two clubs who share a postcode, can often be a grudge one at open level, but is rarely enthralling in u13 section 3.

His daughter is a goaler, or maybe a defender. Wherever she plays, she’s stuck in the goal circle, under his watchful and indignant gaze.

“Hold your position, don’t let her through! Push her back, push her back! What? You’re calling that obstruction?” His chest swells with indignation.

“Well sweetie, you’re just clearly going to have to stand FOUR feet away, aren’t you, if that’s the distance we’re now playing with! Didn’t realise the DISTANCE HAD INCREASED!”

The umpire, an experienced woman who has given more than her fair share of this sort of advice as a coach, runs on unperturbed by the gestures and clapping, shrugging and scoffing coming from the corner of the court.

The other parents, well aware of his behaviour, huddle under a bus shelter on the other side of the court, but he relishes in his self-inflicted isolation.

“That’s disgraceful, the worst decision I’ve ever…THAT’S IT! That’s what I call a comeback! Come on North, you can do WHAT? WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?

He sighs, exhausted by his own abruptness, shiny with sweat and sunscreen. This guy’s an Oscar-worthy actor, he can change emotions at the drop of a hat.

“I don’t even know anymore. Decision after decision, it’s all a joke,” he mutters.

But he doesn’t realise in this performance for one – on the unlikely stage of the intersection of four netball courts – the joke’s on him.

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About Sarah Black

I'm a freelance sports journalist, primarily covering AFLW for AFL Media, but I have a passion for all sports. (Except rugby. Someone needs to explain the point of that game to me.) Having never grown past 5 foot tall, I've given up my dream of being the first professional dual netball/football player and I'm doing the next best thing - writing about it.


  1. Thanks Sarah, I’ve experienced this type of Netball parent and unfortunately it’s not just netball where the parent lives vicariously through their child’s sporting ability.
    In a recent U13 Netball game I witnessed a parent make his daughter’s opponent cry due to intimidating taunts, the matter was reported to the team but its hard when their coach was not much better. Parents and coaches should be ejected for this behaviour. The club was warned but I fear fell upon deaf ears. The umps are often young volunteers and doing the best they can, as are the kids on the court.
    Not a great message for a great sport with extremely large participation levels, let’s hope this behavior remains the exception.

  2. Love that Sarah. Sports watching parents can be appalling. You’ve captured this bozo very well.

  3. Dave Brown says

    Beaut description! Not yet experienced on the sidelines of a netball court but watch it with keen interest on junior football boundaries. Must say, don’t see too much of this anymore (perhaps that means it’s me) unless the umpire misses one team roughing up the other; then all bets are off.

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    He’s also never done bbq duty, has to be chased each season for his daughter’s subs, couldn’t name one member of the club committee and forgets to bring the snakes when it’s his turn. And his daughter will probably quit at the end of U/15s because it’s not fun any more.

    If he was the parent of a mid-courter, he’d be much more agreeable though.

    Well played Sarah.

  5. Chris Bracher says

    Sarah, despite acknowledging all that you say as valid, regrettably I concede that I have been in that space .Hopefully not to the degree that you describe ( at least from my perspective!) but it is really easy for engagement and encouragement to spill over into something bordering on ugliness. Your reflection made me squirm somewhat!
    Having said that, what a great sport it would be if they allowed tackling and bumping!!?

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