In 1902, Nico Broekhuysen, a physical education teacher in one of Amsterdam’s poorest regions, set out to create a sport that he could teach to both his male and female students.
Originally considered controversial for promoting equality, korfball has been gaining traction in New Zealand and is now spreading fast across schools in the Canterbury region.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Nico Broekhuysen, was fed up with the lack of mixed gender sport that he could teach his co-ed students.
He wanted a game where all players regardless of gender were considered equals. And in which individuals had to cooperate and work together for the team to succeed.
After witnessing a game in Sweden called Ringball, Broekhuysen went about reinventing the sport by including elements from both netball and basketball.
He ultimately transformed several loved games into his own creation, korfball.
Why is Korfball becoming so popular?
In korfball, each team is composed of eight players. Four male and four female, all with equal roles and responsibilities in both offence and defence.
Korfball was originally considered controversial because men and women, boys and girls, play alongside each other as equals.
However, as the game became more and more popular, critics could no longer deny its legitimacy as a sport.
This became especially true after it was shown as a demonstration game in the summer Olympics of 1920 and 1928.
Touted as the world’s only truly mixed gender team sport, korfball is now played in 70 countries across the globe, including China, Taiwan, England, Poland, Belgium, and South Africa.
It is now fast gaining momentum in New Zealand.
“The reason it is becoming so popular,” says Korfball Canterbury Development Officer Youri Borrink, “is because it is easy to pick up. The skills are transferable as kids are already using these skills in netball or basketball.”
Youri goes on to say,
Teachers also love it because they recognise the importance of both genders collaborating.”
School development in New Zealand
Korfball was established in New Zealand in 1997 but has been growing steadily since its 2015 shift in focus on school development in Canterbury.
Schools are taking up the sport as it reflects the current ethos in which inclusion, equality, cooperation, diversity, and equal opportunity are considered essential elements of a teaching programme.
Micah, a 7-year-old korfball development student at Pegasus Bay school said, “I like korfball because it’s fun and all genders can play together.”
Year 6 student Dylan says “I enjoy the rotation of offence and defence and how you need to pass the ball around before you can take a shot. It makes it fun and challenging.”
The quick ball movement from player-to-player on court, coupled with the fact that there cannot be any individual players running or dribbling the ball alone, means that children who would normally shy away from sport, are enjoying getting involved and competing.
Korfball’s non-contact element also means no expensive sports equipment or safety gear is required to play. This makes it accessible to many children from all walks of life.
The importance of sport
It is refreshing to discover another sport that binds us together.
With korfball’s innate ability to bring genders together as equals, I believe the growth in the sport is mirroring how today’s society is trying to mend the gender equality gap.
Regardless of our own personal views, when I watch these students playing korfball, I can see how much it brings them together.
As we are seemingly becoming more and more isolated from each other, teaching this togetherness and equality can surely only be a good thing.
Moving forward, Korfball New Zealand is hoping to train more development officers to continue to be able to service the demand for the sport in schools and universities across the country.
“A massive benefit of korfball that is unique to this sport,” says Youri, “is that we are trying to create communities where both genders can play equally.”
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