“How do you accurately convey a sport that nobody has heard of?”
That is the dilemma which Dutch student Maud Siebers, studying a PhD in Biological and Environmental Sciences, has presented herself with as she attempts to bring her passion for korfball to Stirling.
“In the Netherlands, it’s super big”, Siebers explained.
“My mum plays, my aunt plays, my cousin plays, essentially like your parents taking you to play football because that’s how it happened, and it stuck!”
Korfball was invented in 1902 in the Netherlands and is the world’s only mixed-gendered sport.
Teams are made up of four male and four female players. The court is split into an attack and a defensive zone, with two male and two female players from each team in each zone.
Points are scored by throwing a ball into a ‘korf’, a similar goal to that seen in netball and basketball. Crucially, players are only allowed to defend those representing the same gender on the opposite team, to avoid physical mismatches.
Whilst the sport is only now reaching Stirling, korfball has been in Scotland for some time. There are university teams in Edinburgh, Strathclyde and St Andrews, as well as non-uni teams in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.
Without enough funding to get the club off the ground, Siebers explained that it was with the help of these teams that she was able to source the equipment she needed.
“I’ve ended up in this huge korfball community here!” She said.
“I emailed two clubs in Scotland- and from that, every single club in Scotland started emailing me saying: ‘You’re starting a club in Stirling, that’s so exciting! If you need anything we can help!”
Beginner friendly with scope for progression
Teams compete in three divisions, offering different levels of competition to suit all levels of play. The third division especially gives beginner players the chance to learn the game whilst playing against fellow people new to the game.
“I want it to be a very sociable club.” She said: “Even the people that have been there a few weeks or myself are aware that most wouldn’t have picked up a korfball.”
“If you score that’s great! We might show you a technique or do a drill, but if you find a more comfortable way for you to play that’s ok!”
When it comes to her ambitions, Siebers recognises that steady progress will be key to the organic growth of the club. There are tentative plans for friendlies with the help of fellow beginner sides, but no pressure to compete for new players.
Siebers said: “It will start very friendly and I wouldn’t want to force anyone to play competitively.”
“As long as the people coming are having fun then I’m happy. I’ll be here every week until nobody else shows up!”
Playing a sport at university can be a perfect way to find your feet in what can be an otherwise daunting experience. The warm positivity displayed by Siebers shows that korfball can be a safe space to express yourself through sport.
Korfball sessions are every Friday between 4-5 pm in the University sports centre. Those interested can sign up for sessions through the University of Stirling Sport app.
Featured image credit: Jonathan Boomer