Along with the benefits of getting out in the fresh air, playing outdoors is cheaper, and for those who have access to a decent court in their local area, it’s natural to want to make use of it. Having the right playing surface is crucial for safety and enjoyment of the game. Here we explore the options available.
It may come as a surprise to those who play indoor netball but in some parts of the country outdoor netball is thriving.
Along with the benefits of getting out in the fresh air, playing outdoors is cheaper, and for those who have access to a decent court in their local area, it’s natural to want to make use of it. Having the right playing surface is crucial for safety and enjoyment of the game.
Here we explore the options available…
One of the most common outdoor surfaces for netball is open textured porous asphalt – also known as macadam. These hard surfaces provide excellent bounce and are relatively low maintenance. If built to England Netball’s specifications, players should enjoy good grip and fast sprint starts in all-weather conditions. However, there is no shock absorption so anyone looking for more comfort on the joints is likely to prefer an alternative surface.
Notes and queries
- Surface grip – if surface grip in all weathers is the most important surface characteristic for you and your teammates, an unpainted macadam surface is the best choice.
- Colourful courts – you can brighten up an asphalt surface by professionally applying acrylic paint specifically designed to achieve EN’s slip resistance standards. Maintenance budgets can go further if the courts are painted after the initial unpainted surface has worn out, as a means of bringing the slip resistance back to EN specifications.
- Line markings – these are a common source of frustration for players if applied with the wrong type of paint. Thermoplastic lines are not advised – they’re great for road markings but not for sports courts.
- Density – an open textured porous macadam surface is great for allowing rain to drain through quickly, but can be damaged easily by chair legs, wheels, or anything that is heavy and can make an imprint. If courts need to be used for non-sporting activities, it is recommended that a denser grade of asphalt or macadam is laid. This makes it less porous but more durable.
- Life expectancy – the life span of this surface is some 10 years depending on the intensity of its use. You can prolong the life of a surface through a rejuvenation process before investing in a wholesale resurface. All courts need to be resurfaced eventually so it’s important to set aside a sinking fund – we recommend £1,300 +VAT per court per year.
With operators looking to maximise the use of their outdoor facilities, sand-dressed artificial surfaces, also known as GEN2 or 2G pitches, have become increasingly popular. Artificial surfaces are a good option for netball players who appreciate greater shock absorption and are comfortable with a slower pace of game.
Notes and queries
- There are lots of manufacturers selling multi-sports surfaces. The main differences are a) the pile height of the grass, b) the level of shock absorption from the shock pad – if there is one, and c) the amount and type of infill e.g. amounts of sand or rubber crumb. As a guide, the shorter the pile height of the grass, the stiffer the shock pad, and the smaller the amount of infill, the better the surface is for netball.
While less common than asphalt or artificial surfaces, polymeric courts are another option for outdoor netball as they provide good levels of shock absorption. Sometimes found on artificial athletics tracks, or in playgrounds, these ‘rubbery’ surfaces come in a range of colours and have a high traction topcoat so can look and feel great. The downsides are that courts need to be laid on an asphalt base and can lose their grip quite quickly after installation so it’s a more expensive option for venue operators to install and maintain.
Acrylic netball courts are hugely popular in warmer climates like Australia and New Zealand and are found in many tennis clubs in England due their smooth, fast playing surface with excellent bounce. Whilst it may be tempting to consider this a great surface option for combined netball and tennis courts, its lack of porosity reduces it value in the UK. This is illustrated by the images, which show two courts, one macadam (left) and the other acrylic (above), on the same day.
In conclusion, the choice of outdoor surface depends on many factors. Location, community needs, level of play, and budgets all play a contributing part. If you want to find out more about investing in the right playing surface and how to make sure it’s a safe and enjoyable netball experience, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org