Players compete during Red Bull Switch Up 2018 in London
© Mark Roe / Red Bull Content Pool
Netball

Netball rules: Everything you need to know

Never quite been able to grasp the dos and don'ts of netball? Find out all you need to know about the game that's taking over courts near you.
Written by Sacha Shipway
6 min readPublished on
It’s the sport that captured the nation’s heart after England won Commonwealth gold last year, and many people have been enthralled by it, but it's easy to get lost in the whistle noise.
So here's the rules of this blockbuster sport broken down. If you’re just a little bit competitive, enjoy meeting new people, and the buzz of a thrilling, end-to-end sport, then netball could be right up your alley...

The basics

The aim
The aim is simple: you need to score more points than the opposing team. But doing so is anything but – to score a point, a player must shoot the ball through the 10-foot hoop (where there's no backboard), and do so from inside the goal circle (more on this later).
Player concentrates on her shot during Red Bull Switch Up 2018 in London
Player concentrates on her shot during Red Bull Switch Up 2018 in London
Who scores?
There are seven players on a court and each has their own position (and their own area on the court). There's two shooters per team and it's their responsibility to score goals, but it takes the entire team to get the ball down the court to the shooters.

The rules

Leave your dancing shoes at home
Footwork is one of the most challenging rules for newbies because the rules state that you can't lift the first foot you land on before passing the ball, i.e. you can't run or walk with the ball. Keeping your first foot down, you can however use it as an anchor, which you can then pivot on. Staying in the same spot will go against every fibre in your being, as it feels a lot more natural to keep running when you catch the ball. But, the footwork rule makes netball dynamic, powerful and fast and it'll feel like second nature before you know it.
Once you've landed, you can't move again until the ball is released
Once you've landed, you can't move again until the ball is released
Advanced players can do what's called a 'running pass', and to the untrained eye this quick fluid movement actually looks like footwork, however what actually happens is: while running you catch the ball and you must pass the ball quickly on your next stride, before your landing foot takes a second stride.
How many elephants?
Three. You have three seconds (or elephants) to hold the ball until you must pass it – otherwise the umpire will call you for 'held ball' where possession will automatically go to the other team.
On receiving the ball, a player must release it within three seconds
On receiving the ball, a player must release it within three seconds
Replay
You can't bounce the ball to yourself otherwise umpires will call you for 'replayed ball'. You can bounce the ball to another player using a bounce pass. But if you drop the ball and bounce it to regain possession – and umpires deem that you could have controlled the ball without bouncing it – you will be called for replayed ball and have to give away a free pass to the other team.
Over a third
The ball cannot be passed over a third. This means that if a defensive back-line pass is taken, the ball cannot simply be thrown to the shooting circle at the other end of the court – it must go into the centre third first. Failure to do so will result in a free pass to the opposing team.

Where you're allowed on the court

"Am I allowed in there?" is one of the questions commonly asked by newbies or returning netballers. But once you get your head around it, it's quite simple. If you need a clue, look for your defending player, as they're allowed into the same areas as you.
Goal Keeper (GK)/Goal Shooter (GS): they are allowed in one third only – the attacking third for the GS, and the defending third for the GK. They are marked by each other.
The Goal Keeper (GK) and Goal Shooter (GS) are marked by each other
The Goal Keeper (GK) and Goal Shooter (GS) are marked by each other
Wing Defence (WD)/Wing Attack (WA): they are allowed in two thirds but not the shooting circle. They're both allowed into the centre third, and the attacker (WA) is allowed into their attacking third, and the defender (WD) into their defending third. They are marked by each other and must both start behind the third line for the centre-pass.
Goal Attack (GA)/Goal Defender (GD): they are allowed into two thirds – the centre third and the attacking third (GA) or defending third (GD). They are both allowed into the shooting circle and they must start behind the third line for the centre-pass.
Centre (C): they are allowed everywhere on the court except the shooting circles.

How does play start?

Centres start off the game by stepping into the circle in the middle of the court. (One foot must be wholly within the circle but the other can be outside of it – if you get this wrong, you can give away a free pass). Before the centre can take the centre pass, all of the other players must be behind the third lines and in position. If they aren't, they will be offside and also give away a free pass. The ball must be received in the centre-third. If a player catches it in the goal third, a free pass will be given to the opposing team.
At the beginning of the game, captains will flip a coin, or play rock, paper, scissors to decide who takes the centre-pass (the other team get to decide which end of the court they would like to start shooting at – this can be important in outdoor matches where the sun can be in your eyes at one end). Then the centre-pass is taken alternately regardless of which team just scored.

The difference between a penalty and a free pass

A free pass is given when a player is offside, has replayed the ball, or held the ball for longer than three seconds. You are still in play when you give away a free pass, which means you can still defend.
A penalty is given when a player has obstructed another player, or contacted them. You are not in play when a penalty is taken, meaning you must stand by the side of the player where the penalty is set and you cannot give verbal orders to your teammates while you're out of play. As soon as the opposition pass the ball, you can move.
A penalty is given when a player has obstructed another player
A penalty is given when a player has obstructed another player

What happens when the ball goes out of court

If the ball goes out of court, a throw in or back-line pass is taken. Whoever the ball last came off will then be the defending team, and the other team will take the pass. The umpire will tell you where to take it. And if your toes are on the line, that will result in a foul throw and the ball being given to the opposition.

Game length

Netball matches typically last 60 minutes and are broken into four, 15-minute quarters. But different versions of the game mean different match lengths. For example, in Red Bull Switch Up, matches last just 10 minutes and are broken into two five-minute halves.
Netball matches are broken down into four 15-minute quarters
Netball matches are broken down into four 15-minute quarters
That's a lot to think about, but there's got to be a reason why over 160,000 people are playing netball in the UK every week. Pick up a ball and head to a court to find out why – warning: fun will be had!
Red Bull Switch Up is a shorter, more dynamic version of the game – played in much less time and on half a court. Why not give it a go as a gateway into traditional netball? For more information about Red Bull Switch Up, click here.