Modified versions of sport are becoming increasingly popular among retirees as it allows people of all abilities to enjoy a sport they love without having to worry about injury or their current physical abilities.
A number of older women in Strathalbyn and Milang, South Australia, are rekindling their love of netball by doing just that, playing the sport in a more accessible form: walking netball.
Don't limit yourself!
For decades Amanda Vivian has been a passionate netball player, starting around the age of 10 and working her way up over the years to playing at the top level in State teams. In 2012 she had to give up playing due to an injury and family commitments.
When Ms Vivian eventually came across Strathalbyn Walking Netball, she ‘ummed and aahed’ about whether she should join. She was concerned that she would be “too competitive” for walking netball, however, once she was back on the netball court, she couldn’t drag herself away.
“From the very beginning, I absolutely loved it. To play sport without any pain – because you are not allowed to run and not allowed to jump – and find that I can still do it was great,” says Ms Vivian.
Standing at a tall 6 foot 4 inches, she was perfect in the position of goal shooter in her youth, but walking netball has allowed her to play a range of positions she never tried before.
“I have only ever played goal shooter since I was about 12. Now, I hate putting on the goal shooter bib because I can play centre, goalkeeper, wing defence, wing attack – and I love it.”
When it comes to ageing, Ms Vivian knows that keeping fit is important, which is why walking netball was a perfect avenue for her to keep fit and healthy while invested in something she loves.
“I get very bored walking. I find team sports or sports with other people more interesting because you have that commitment to the team,” explains Ms Vivian.
She adds she sees people her age limiting themselves in what they do due to injury or reduced mobility, but believes it’s important to keep moving.
“Your whole body relies on you still moving. It makes you a useful part of society. I love going out to concerts and bouncing the night away, it hurts like hell but I will always do that until I am in a wheelchair! You use it or lose it, you have to keep moving or why be able to move [your body]?”
Every Tuesday night, Jan Woods stands on the netball courts at Strathalbyn and thinks, “God, I’m back here again!”
She played netball from the age of seven right up until she retired from the sport in her late 30s. Ms Woods says it has been 35 years since she had played a game of netball, however, walking netball has allowed her to participate in that joy again.
When she first came across the Strathalbyn Walking Netball group, she was unsure about joining because she hadn’t played competitive sport in such a long time and she knew she would never be able to run on a netball court.
But since Ms Woods was an avid walker, the idea of playing a modified version of netball that didn’t require any running or jumping, she realised she was actually fairly fit for the sport!
“It is a good feeling and it’s nice to be out and about. I am one of the oldest out there, there are a lot of young mums that come in and play. I play against them and I don’t do too bad! It is a good all-round exercise program to be in,” says Ms Woods.
Picking up walking netball has been a great nostalgic hit for Ms Woods that she could add to her busy social calendar of volunteering, book club and Mahjong.
Building blocks for good health
Jenny Drury came across the walking netball opportunity and decided to get back into the sport. Something she originally never thought she would play again.
When she started playing walking netball, she found that playing team sport greatly improved her health, self-confidence, and self-worth because of the camaraderie with others.
“Just the physical aspect of how to feel good about yourself and just your ability to get out there and be involved is really important. Being included in a group has me feeling wanted and it adds value to my life in that way,” says Ms Drury.
“It is far too easy to become isolated and as we get older, it is very easy for our circle of life to become very small and I think we can become quite self-absorbed to some degree.
“Whereas, if your circle of people and contacts and things that you are doing are broad, it keeps us young and involved and connected with people. I think our connection with people keeps our mental health really good.”
Ms Vivian, Ms Woods and Ms Drury are living proof that you’re never too old to get back on the court. Participating in sport has huge benefits to your physical and mental wellbeing, which is why it is important to continue playing, even if you have to make adjustments.
What sport would you love to play again? Tell us in the comments below.