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Men and women play as equals

posted on February 20, 2023

Korfball is not new, but its proponents say it has new relevance amid questions about the gender divide in sports. Now it just needs to catch on outside the Netherlands.

By Jeré Longman, posted on

DELFT, the Netherlands — The home coach gathered his players in a semicircle for a PowerPoint pep talk. A chance to win a European championship does not come along regularly, he said. He spoke about analytics, but mostly about predatory determination. Rebound like bears, he said. Make assists as hungrily as wolves. Attack like tigers and panthers.

Picture by Melissa Schriek

And then the coach sent his players out for the inaugural Champions League final of korfball, a century-old cousin of basketball. It is one of the world’s most obscure games but among the most progressive, a rare team sport devised expressly for women and men to play together in equal numbers, with equal respect and value and responsibility.

A number of sports hold mixed-gender competitions, like mixed doubles in tennis and relay races in swimming and track and field. But these are essentially individual sports with an occasional team component. With some exceptions like pairs figure skating, ice dancing and ultimate Frisbee, men and women mostly perform independently on teams. But korfball’s ethos is built on essential, intricate collaboration.

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