Ringball, redefined by the lads to suit their flow
For a game which has half of its origins deeply steeped in netball, it is a wonder that any member of the male gender should be attracted to ringball.
Based on its rules and the manner of play, many still consider ringball to be a close cousin of netball. However, in Namibia, like many ringball-playing nations, the male participants in the sport have redefined it to suit their style.
In fact, the trainer and coach of the association Ringball Namibia, Martin Johannes says since the game was introduced in the country, there have actually been more guys than girls playing ringball.
“The guys have developed their own flow of playing. They don’t play like the women do. A lot of guys who first hear of ringball see the women playing it, and they do so with a very similar flow to netball, hence the perception that it is a woman’s sport. But once you start playing it, those perceptions change,” Johannes explained.
Although the rules are similar to netball, one of the players from the Las Torros Boys’ team, Mzwai Shawn Mento said the other half of ringball is similar to basketball, and that is what attracts most boys to it.
Whereas the girls’ games are usually slower, with a somewhat poetic motion to it, the guys’ games are usually fast and more aggressive.
“Ringball is not a common sport. Just like netball, you don’t bounce the ball around, unlike with basketball. I also thought it was a bit funny when we were introduced to it, and didn’t feel very comfortable the first few times I played it,” Mento stated.
The 21-year-old player emphasized that it is only once one has understood the game that they will stop viewing it as a woman’s sport.
He, along with many others, were introduced to ringball in 2009 when the president of the International Ringball Federation John Oosthuizen came to Namibia to promote the sport.
“It was at an after-school centre with Physically Active Youth (PAY), and Oosthuizen trained us. We wrote a test, all of us passed and we were registered as ringball players,” Mento recalled.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old V-Power Boys’ team member Haufiku Tobias said he just started playing ringball this year, but is already interested in teaching other people to play, particularly in the northern regions.
“When I started, I didn’t even know how to play, but the game is very interesting. It helps you to stay fit. It’s both a girls’ and boys’ sport. It has funny rules, but that is what makes it interesting for me,” Tobias said.
The shooting aspect of the game is what attracts most boys to ringball, they say. And there are aspects of netball which make the game just as interesting for boys.
Whereas in basketball you are allowed to shoot inside the circle or a three-point arc, in ringball, just like netball, you can only shoot outside of it, which makes the game more challenging and interesting for the boys. “You have to have a good eye to shoot,” said Johannes Andreas, also a member of V-Power Boys’ team.
“The way you create space for yourself to receive the ball is nothing like basketball. It’s more like netball. In fact, for guys who play football, the technique of receiving and sending a through-ball is very similar to ringball, so guys who play football find it much easier,” he continued.
Of course, the competitive edge is not something solely inherent to the boys, as girls are just as competitive.