'Make friends, have fun, get back into shape': Catching up with the women of catchball

A fit and active group of Christchurch ladies have been coming together every week in Lyttelton to socialise and exercise over a game of catchball.

The team sport was originally created by women for women in Israel in the early 2000s. 

Antje Schmidt introduced the Lyttelton community to the game last year and says women of all skill levels can play it.

"For middle-aged women, it's quite hard to be part of a team sport so if you Google it, there's really nothing available for if you are late-20s to whatever age."

The team of 13 play every Thursday evening at the Lyttelton Recreation Centre on Winchester St. Catchball looks a bit like volleyball when played, with two teams of six each lining up on either side of a net.

Schmidt believes a lot of women just want to be a part of something and catchball provides them with the opportunity to take part in a relaxed activity.

"I think catchball especially, gives the women the freedom to come, to join other ladies, make friends, have fun, do some exercise, get back into shape."

The first session is free, so people can test it out to see if they enjoy playing.

Team member Iuliane Botnarenco said she has a lot of fun.

"It's not difficult to learn, even if you haven't played before, so it's very easy to catch up and develop skills."

Players are encouraged to socialise outside of the weekly games.

Botnarenco feels she has made quite a few new friends through the sport.

"We actually love catching up. After a term, we usually get together somewhere for supper or for a drink."

Although she has been struggling to find facilities to hire, Schmidt is keen to bring catchball to other areas of Christchurch so women have a space to hang out together, have fun and get fit.

- By Emily O'Hagan, made with the support of NZ On Air