Getting Back Into Netball - Just Go For It
Angela Brennan was a reluctant convert to netball with zero aptitude for team sports, a total lack of fitness and was scared from always being picked last at school. But, Angela still had the urge to get back into netball and this is her story:-
I was quite surprised to find myself joining a gaggle of about 30 women on the Park House netball courts, one evening last summer. For a moment I couldn't quite work out how I'd ended up there, hadn't I always hated PE?
But the sky was pink, the breeze was warm, and I was off the hook putting the children to bed. "This is nice" I commented to one of the other girls, "I just need a gin and tonic and a deck chair...." Then the whistle went , and I was handed a 'Wing Attack' bib and pointed in the direction of the goal third.
Following the national 'This Girl Can' campaign to get women into sports , netball is on the rise. It's now one of the fastest growing team sports in the UK, with women of all abilities, shapes, sizes and ages taking it up as adults. So when three friends happened to ask in the space of three days if I'd go along to Back to Netball with them, my response went from an immediate, PE -knicker-horror-induced 'never!' to a hesitant enough 'no' for them to seize the moment and twist my arm.
Back to Netball is run by two local pros, Helen Thompson and Pam Mansfield, under the umbrella of England Netball. Helen and Pam play in the Newbury League, they coach local junior and adult teams, and they're trained umpires. Between them there is not much they don't know about the sport, tactics, and fitness, but perhaps more importantly (at least in my case) they have a really good sense of humour and the patience of saints. "Pass to the left and run to the right!" they call as I lob the ball enthusiastically to the right and set off in the opposite direction.
"Oh, no no noooo, I'll just watch." I gabble taking a step back when a bib is proffered to me at match time. "I don't know what to do, I'll do more harm than good." "Good job it's not brain surgery then" said the bib-disher-outer giving me a friendly shove in the direction of the court.
And I'm glad she did, what an eye-opener! It had never even occurred to me that netball would be fun, I just thought I would endure it for the sake of health and fitness. But we all had such a laugh that I went home that night and Googled the rules. I returned next week armed with my new-found knowledge and enthusiasm - there's nothing like a convert.
It seems I am not the only one bitten by the netball bug. When I went to buy some netball trainers, the sports shop in town had sold out and was ordering more to meet demand.
"So this is where all the women in Newbury go..." my teammate observed when we turned up to play in the summer league and surveyed the six courts and well over a hundred netball players. Such is the popularity of the sport that Back to Netball now runs as two sessions; one for beginners followed by training for league players.
Each week Helen and Pam go through warm up, ball skill drills, tactics, fitness training and then they umpire a friendly match. "I think it's a bit addictive" mused one friend after she'd joined two teams and bought a goal post for her garden. 18 months on and I have to agree. I don't have a post in my garden (yet!), I am definitely not a natural sportsperson, and none of it comes instinctively to me - but I love it all the same, so much so that I could have cried when Pam told me I'd improved....not that I could have got any worse mind you.
With thanks to Angela Brennan for her amusing anecdote. This scene is played out across the country so we ask, What Are You Waiting For?