EDAM cheese, pharmaceuticals and Dennis Bergkamp are some of the Netherlands’ most well-known exports to the UK, but a new sport styled as a cross between netball and basketball could give them a run for their money.
Imagined in Amsterdam at the start of the 20th century, korfball has developed a participation of 200,000 players worldwide and arrived in the Ding in 2019, thanks to the creation of Reading Rooks Korfball Club.
Originally meeting at South Reading Leisure Centre, the group was set up to offer those who wanted to play the sport in a relaxed environment. Korfball teams consist of eight players, four males and four females, something which is rarely seen in segregated mainstream sports.
Club member Josie Edwards said: “Having mixed gender teams is one of the main attractions of korfball as it promotes higher levels of inclusivity, diversity and respect – it allows people of different genders to play together on equal terms.
“Korfball is a sport designed for everyone, regardless of gender, age or skill level. This makes the game interesting and unique, players have to adapt to different opponents and teammates.
“Our message to prospective players would be: ‘Come and join Reading Rooks Korfball Club, you will have a great time playing an exciting sport with awesome people and great socials.’”
The sport is played in a rectangular court split into two zones, each with a 3.5 metre-tall basketball in the centre of them. Josie described the sport as one which involves “a lot of movement, passing, teamwork and controlled contact”.
Teams are split into two divisions consisting of two male and two female players; one is tasked with attacking while the other defends, before switching zones every two goals. In this way, players have the opportunity to master both sides of the game.
Reading Rooks’ three teams, who are now based at Reading Blue Coat School, play in the Oxfordshire Korfball Association (OKA) leagues, which features clubs from Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire. The Rooks also participate in various tournaments and friendlies throughout the September-April season.
“A big highlight for the club was our 1s getting promoted last season, moving up to OKA Division 1 for the 2023/24 for the first time,” Josie explained. “The club is proud to have grown rapidly since its formation, going from one team to three in just three years, despite disruption from Covid.
“In 2023, the club attended four summer tournaments, allowing us to play different teams, meet new people, have fun and improve skills.”
An annual awards night serves as an opportunity for members to come together and relive the club’s season highlights and recognise everyone’s hard work.
The club always welcomes new members who wish to play competitively or just for fun, and boasts a stellar social offering. Its 30 players can take part in pub nights, paddleboard meet-ups and country walks, and connect online through the club’s Instagram and Facebook accounts: @readingrookskorfball.
There is also an annual trip away within the UK, with the latest excursion being to Devon in May.
Those who are interested in getting involved are welcome to attend two trial sessions for free, and are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing, trainers and to bring a water bottle. Training sessions take place from 6.15pm-7.45pm at Blue Coat.
“Visitors can expect a warm welcome at their first session, as well as a fun and active introduction to korfball,” Josie said. “They will learn the basic rules and skills of the game, as well as playing mini-games with other beginners and experienced players.
“Existing club members and coaches will be happy to answer any questions.”
For more information or to book a trial session, contact: [email protected]