Get Inspired: Diary of a korfball newcomer
A cold Thursday evening in January...
I'm standing outside the sports hall. Alone. I'm sure this is the right hall… there's only one 'main sports hall' in this building. Wait, is there? As I wait nervously, I watch four sets of badminton players dive around the hall in a competitive manner. It didn't seem like they were cooling down and getting ready to pack up. That's it, I've got the wrong day. There's no way it was on Thursday, there's no one else here.
I call my mum. Because that's what every 27-year-old would do in this situation. "There's no one here… the woman said it's in the main hall. I think I'm in the main hall. Why is there no one here?"
After she persuades me to wait until 8pm to at least find out if I had the right day, I reluctantly watch people entering the changing rooms on my right. As they emerge in karate uniforms, I knew I had the wrong day.
Panicking, I check my email. Karen, the secretary of the club Manchester Korfball Club had replied to my request to try out korfball. I found the club through the BBC Get Inspired Activity Finder just last week and as the leisure centre was just down the road from my flat, it made for an appealing opportunity to try a new sport.
Thursday, she had written Thursday!
After congratulating myself for knowing the days of the week, I look up from my phone to see a bunch of people walking through the door wearing bright orange 'Korfball England' T-shirts. My heart flipped. There's no backing out now…
I do a quick scan of the hall. Men, women, old, young.
I gravitate towards a girl who smiles at me. "I'm new," I say quickly - it turns out this phrase is incredibly useful when starting a new sport you haven't had time to read up on the rules of, and so consequently it becomes my go-to phrase of the evening.
The girl (or, "my new korfball friend" as I referred to her later when talking to my mum), took me under her wing, which was very easy for her due to her height and my lack thereof. Actually, as I look around the hall, it is obvious that I am the shortest girl here. But, as I've spent most of my adult life being the "shortest girl here", I manage to break the ice with several players using my wide repertoire of short-people jokes.
Shooting in korfball, I find, is not the same as in netball (which I dabbled in during school), and certainly different to basketball. The pole towers over everyone and the hoop, or 'korf', is a strange shape, and very, very, tall.
OK, so warm up done. I receive a rapturous round of applause from my fellow players for my first goal, and soon enough several more goals followed. The team were all making me very welcome, and any nerves I had vanished. It felt good!
Halfway through the training session and I'm already nearly out of water. Korfball is tiring and thirsty work. More so than I thought it would be. The fact that I'm still looking "fresh faced" according to my new korfball friend, is either due to very good foundation, or more likely, a nice girl who doesn't want to put me off coming back next week.
Note to self - bring more water next week.
As we rattle through different training drills, my confidence grows, and I start to have fun despite attempting to make friends, focus on learning the techniques, and trying to remember the rules simultaneously.
Insider tip for newbies: when you accidently trip up one of the up-and-coming stars of the team when attempting to defend them, the phrase "I'm new" really does work wonders.
Time for a game. Seriously? I'm knackered, and well, I don't actually know the rules yet. I make this slightly integral fact known to the nearest coach and one of the subs is asked to explain the basic rules to me. I try my best to take them all in, and suddenly the whistle is sounded and I'm subbed on looking bemused.
The past 15 minutes have been a blur of rule breaking, running about like a lunatic shouting "I'm new!" and most importantly, having a ball (if you'll excuse the pun).
The phrase 'you learn on the job' definitely applies to korfball. At first the rules seem alien, but once you get the concept of defending for half the game and attacking for the other half, it's fairly easy to pick up.
The whistle blows for the last time, and I'm filled with a feeling of satisfaction. This is slightly overshadowed by exhaustion, but despite looking like a sweaty mess, I'm proud of myself for sticking with it for two hours. Plus, everyone else looks like a sweaty mess so if anything, I feel like one of the team.
At least four or five of the players congratulate me on my first session and tell me that I did well for a newbie. This group seem like a genuinely nice gang, and my sense of satisfaction only grows as I leave with a smile on my face.
Back home after downing two glasses of water, I excitedly relay the previous two hours to my boyfriend using a series of gesticulations and korfball lingo such as "feed", "blocking" and "veer."
He seems impressed by my new-found knowledge (or at least by my ability to remember the words), and encourages me to go back next week.
In bed, knackered, but with a new sense of optimism.
If I can power through a two-hour session with no prior knowledge of korfball, then imagine how good I could be when I actually know the rules! I imagine myself captain of the Manchester korfball team, the England korfball team, lifting up the korfball world cup… OK, stop daydreaming!
So it's unlikely (but not impossible) that I will become an international korfball star. That however doesn't matter, because what I will gain is a new bunch of friends, and a fun way of keeping fit and healthy that doesn't rely on an expensive gym membership.
So, I will endeavour to continue my korfball adventure next week, armed with magical 'fresh-face' foundation, a mega water bottle, and a huge supply of enthusiasm.
And if all else fails, I shall remember two magical words: I'm new. So simple, and yet so effective.