• Sam Wells

What is Korfball?

Despite its dynamic, fast-paced action and unique mixed-gender team composition, Korfball is still widely unheard of. The Dutch based sport comprises elements of netball, basketball, and handball to create an inclusive yet competitive event. The objective of any Korfball game is to earn more points than your opponents, by scoring in the Korf (Dutch for basket), through slick movement, quick passing, and accurate shooting.

Originating in 1902, Korfball developed in the Netherlands after a school teacher presented his students with an exciting variant of another game. Despite branching out across the world, the Netherlands have consistently dominated the international scene, finishing 1st in every World Games and World Championships since 1978 (except 1991).

In the UK, Korfball grew following several demonstration games by visiting Netherlands teams. One of the main developmental mechanisms has been provided through Korfball’s prominence at Universities, where graduates desired to continue with the sport and created numerous new teams across the country.

Korfball is played on a surface slightly larger than a netball court, both indoors, outdoors, and occasionally on the beach! The pitch is split down the middle, with a 3.5m tall Korf post just off centre of each half. Each team contains 8 players, 4 males and 4 females. Teams are split into two divisions which are locked into one half of the court, 2 males and 2 females from each team (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The division in the front of the picture shows an intense attack v defence situation, whilst the division at the far side of the court are inactive.

Players are only able to defend players of matching gender, leading to teams devising intricate technical plays to isolate players for shooting opportunities. One of the rules of Korfball that stand it alone from other sports is the defended shot rule. Players are unable to shoot if their defender is within touching distance of their chest or the ball, however the sport is mainly non-contact. If the player scores but their defender is within this touching distance, the referee can award a defended shot and the defenders receive possession of the ball (Figure 2). Dribbling and running with the ball is prohibited so players rely on passing to create space, along with their allocated 2 steps and pivot motions.

Figure 2: The defender is close enough to the attacker to prevent a shooting opportunity or could make it a defended shot.

Every time two goals are scored, the divisions swap ends, so players are still marking the same opponent, but have swapped over attacking and defending. The constant rotation of the divisions creates great variability in the game and because players are able to rest when the ball is not in their half, they are able to exert high levels of intensity in their play.

Games can last anywhere from 40 to 60 mins depending on the competition and can be played in halves or quarters. Timeouts are also an option, similar to basketball, prompting detailed attacking situations following coaching instruction which have the ability to sway a game.

Korfball’s distinctive mixed-gender teams and freedom of attacking styles make it an excellent sport for individuals of all ability levels and genders, as well as catering to those who desire intense competition. There are currently 90+ Korfball teams in the UK, all eager to teach new members and to keep growing this exciting sport!

Written by Sam Wells