Tab Meets: Cambridge’s first all-male netball team
Brave brave men
A while back I had the pleasure of meeting Adam Bennett, founder and Captain of Cambridge’s first all-male netball team, and truly one of the great men of our age.
So there I sat in Queens’ bar, fidgeting nervously with the questions I had hastily prepared, sipping the espresso I had bought in the hope that it would make me look bohemian and professional. He was late, as men of his calibre usually are, far too busy and important for the petty machinations of aspiring journalists.
After ten anxious minutes, he walked into the room. In a fluster, I forgot to take a picture, so I will have to use the full descriptive force of my otherwise useless Arts degree to compensate. He looked like a Swan, but in the body of a man (obviously); graceful and serene, but powerful – he could break a man’s arm if he so wished. I shook his hand, admiring its firmness, and began.
“Hello Adam, how’re you?” (I was just warming up)
“I’m good, thanks” – calm, collected, self-assured. A man of few words, it seemed.
“Che Guevara once said ‘a true revolutionary is motivated by feelings of great love’ – to what extent would you describe yourself as a true revolutionary?”
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘revolutionary’ – I prefer the term ‘pioneer’, but I am motivated by love of the sport. I think it is underestimated in the male community. I think in Cambridge – and not just here, nationally and globally – netball is seen as a women’s game, and is viewed by guys as a game in which you can’t move, and therefore just a worse version of basketball. I must admit I felt the same, until I was enlightened.”
“So when was the moment when it all changed, when you saw the great shining netball in the sky on the road to Damascus?”
“I played mixed netball – my college dad was the captain, so I got roped along. I think it was in that first game, in the first five minutes. Every guy I’ve got to come along has been the same, they’ve realised too: at its best, Netball is an art form – you get times when you feel like you’re flying.”
“Despite your movement being restricted to certain areas of the court?” I quipped, cynically.
“No, but when you’re catching the ball, you’re in the air, it’s like you’re soaring,” he responded, and I instantly regretted my remark. I realised that it was people like me that made life so difficult for brave men like Adam.
“Okay, so let’s talk about the struggle; the prejudices you’ve faced in setting up an all male netball team.”
“The main thing is that girls won’t play with us. They say we don’t know the rules, but really it’s because we’re taller. There’s a kind of snobbery amongst some. There’s also a problem with guys – I think the team’s not just about netball, it’s about redefining masculinity.”
The female stranglehold over netball is one I’ve noticed myself. One of the women I asked told me that “Men are just shit at netball” before spitting on the floor and twisting my useless nipples, her eyes burning with man-hate; goading me for not being able to bear children and sneering that I should get back to the shed. This view is so potent that many men believe it themselves, thinking that netball can never be ‘their’ sport. Faced with such matriarchal oppression, the actions of men like Adam truly are courageous and, to use his own words, pioneering.
Finally, since you are the only all-male netball team in Cambridge, what is your message for the other colleges?
“To the guys: be strong, don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do. Play a bit of mixed netball, get involved, learn the rules, get a taste for it. The Netball will speak for itself – you will fall in love. Don’t get cocky though – we are excellent, we’ve got some pretty strong players, be prepared for some still competition.”
And with that, he departed, leaving me in awe-struck silence. Had I had a hat, I would have taken it off to him.
We need more brave men like him in the world.