Interesting / Inspiring Stories
When moving overseas most people's priority might be to get somewhere to live and/or employment in place. Not Sarah, the first thing that Sarah did before arriving in the UK from Sydney, Australia was get herself a spot on a netball team. Here she tells us why that was so important to her:
“I moved to London over 2 years ago to be with my partner John. Before arriving in the UK I made a stop in Borneo where I met up with a friend who mentioned that her team in London were looking for a new GK. I jumped at the opportunity and before I'd even set foot on UK soil I had a place on a netball team.
Through the connections that I made on my netball team I got my first lead for work and before I knew it I had a freelance job working for Limelight Sports. Once this contract came to its completion I managed to find a second contract in film through my netball contacts. It's not always the big jobs either. As I'm a freelancer, there can often be periods of time when I'm unemployed. My team mates are aware of this, so will often try and help me out by asking me to babysit their kids and think of me for other smaller jobs. It all helps!
During prolonged periods of unemployment (that are part and parcel of being a freelancer), I can suffer periods of depression. When these feelings rear their ugly head, I sometimes can’t even get out of bed. Netball gave me something to get up for, forcing me out of the door as I didn't want to let my team mates down. Even if I didn’t feel like playing, once at the courts and surrounded by my team I would start to feel a little better. After playing a game I would be a happier person – endorphins from sport really do help, as does social interaction. If it hadn't been for netball I don't know what I'd have done - I'd probably have thrown in the towel and be back in Australia right now!
I've now played in 4 or 5 different leagues across London and I have to say that Action Netball is by far my favourite. It's the only league that I've played in that offers both mixed and ladies netball; I play both and really enjoy the different dynamic that the mixed game has to offer. The standard of play is excellent – as a GK I can sometimes get bored or frustrated if the games aren't evenly matched and this doesn't happen at Action. It's also the most social league that I've played in. At the others my team would mainly just play and then go home. The fact that the Action has organised drinks twice a season ensures that this doesn't happen!”
What is it about netball that has got so many women, all over the country returning to a sport that many haven't played since leaving school. We asked Amand how netball became her passion:
"Five years ago I was a busy young Mum juggling my career in the City, raising my two young children whilst simultaneously opening my restaurant, Yupa's Thai, in Grove Park Chiswick. To say life was busy is an understatement. In-between work, home and the restaurant, there wasn't much time left for me.
That all changed one Thursday night when I was approached by a fellow Mum at a school Mum's night out. “Come join a netball team” she beckoned. And that was it. Before I'd really had time to properly digest what I had just committed to, I found myself donning my trainers, cutting my nails and heading down to the local netball courts.
I'm not going to lie, that first game back was tough. In my head, I knew the rules, knew what I was supposed to be doing, but my body just didn't respond the way that it had when I was 16 years old and playing at school. My reactions were slower, I wasn't as fit; what had I signed up for! My knees were shot to pieces after that first game, recovery wouldn't be for another week, just in time for me to take to the court and do it all again.
But do it again I did, and again and again. Before I knew it that split second decision that I had made on that wet and windy Thursday night had morphed into something that I looked forward to, something I quickly improved at and became good at, something that became my passion, that now I couldn't imagine living without.
The bond that I've developed with the ladies I play with goes beyond the chemistry we have on the court, there's friendship, support and lots of laughs. Netball forces me to take time for myself, something that I wasn't previously doing.
Now I'm more than a mum, a wife, an employee, a colleague. I'm a netballer."
Amanda, 32, who lives with her husband and two children, Ruben (11) and Leila (5) in Acton. Amanda plays for two teams at Action Netball on a Tuesday evening; the Lazy Cows in the ladies B grade and Who Let the Boys Out in the mixed grade.
Netball is more than just a way of keeping yourself physically fit. Cidinha shares her story:
"After having my second child, Gabby, I left my job as a restaurant manager in Tottenham Court Road and became a childminder. Life had changed, I could no longer juggle working long hours in town with raising a young, growing family, and nor did I want to. It's fair to say that as my children grew and they developed interests in first, football and then, netball my interests started to become aligned with theirs.
My daughter, Anna-Melissa, had a passion for netball and was pretty good at the sport. Her school team made history, winning every single game and external competition, they ever played from year 7 through to 11.
After following Anna-Melissa and her team to so many netball games, a group of fellow supporting Mum's suggested we book a court and have a Mum's V Dad's match – just for fun. After the game, on returning the keys of the court, the woman in charge that day said to us “You know we are starting a back to netball session here, every Wednesday night – you should come along”.
So we did. We turned up, threw a ball around, not always managing to catch it, had a laugh and made lots of friends. Wednesday night became our night. Our night off from being just Mum. We played, we went for a drink at the pub on the way home and ensured we not only did a bit of exercise to keep our bodies healthy but also had a bit of a social life to keep our minds healthy.
After a few months we formed a team. I thought I was a shooter but it took a few games for me to get my eye back in! Ten years on, I still play with three of those ladies today.
Playing netball has helped me through some tough times. Six years ago, I had a health scare - breast cancer. Following treatment, getting back to netball completely took my mind off of things. You get on that court and you don't think about anything else other than the game, you spend 40 minutes worry free.
Having cancer made me think of things differently, I quickly went from playing socially once a week to playing as often as I could to improve my fitness and well being. From there I've never looked back, netball is what drives me, my passion, my obsession."
Cidinha, 55, is a childminder living in Northfields. Cid plays at Action Netball for her team, the Panthers, on a Tuesday evening, at Reynolds Sports Centre, in the Ladies A Grade. When she's not knee deep in netball she is also responsible for 24 junior teams at Hanwell Town Football Club.
'There's a netballer in all of us' according to Lani. Action Netball spoke to Lani about why she loves the sport so much. Below is her inspirational story.
“I started playing netball when I was 7 years old back in South Africa where sport is a lot more prominent in schools than here in the UK and I've been hooked ever since.
Three years ago, we discovered that I was pregnant. I continued to play until I reached my third trimester and returned to Action Netball 6 months after giving birth.
That first game back was terrifying. My body was different in so many ways. Not only had I carried and birthed a baby, it was now primarily being used to feed my baby. I didn't know if I could also make my body do what I wanted it to do on a netball court. But that game was also liberating. The fact that I had just had a baby didn't make a difference on the netball court. For the first time since she was born, I spent 40 minutes with my sole focus, completely on something else other than feeding and sleeping routines.
The best thing about netball is that it's open to people of all abilities. There is a league or position out there that suits every woman, no matter what standard. The netball court is an environment where there is no emphasis placed on what you look like, there is no value you bring to your team by virtue of your appearance. There are all shapes and sizes and it's refreshing that, in today's world, women are using their bodies as a tool, rather than an object to be looked at.
Netball has given me so much self-confidence, as well as playing, I started umpiring at Action Netball and learnt a new skill. Having a daughter has made me so much more aware of just how important it is to ensure that girls and women, of all ages, have self-confidence, stop doubting themselves and learn to love who they are. Playing a team sport, such as netball, helps us to achieve this."
Lani, 39 from Greenford, originally from South Africa, has been living in London for 20 years. She has a 2 year old daughter, Jojo, and following a nine month maternity leave is now back at her full-time job in Professional Services.
So what is it about this sport that has so many women involved? Sonia, offers some clues.
Sonia, founder and director of a marketing consultancy, is a part-time coach from Ealing. She has two children, Jack, 18, and Mia, 13, and plays in both the ladies and mixed grade leagues at Action Netball.
“When I was at school I had limited access to playing netball,” she said. “Basketball with the boys was more the order of the day. Once I got to uni, I jumped at the opportunity to play socially but, as is the case with so many young women, once I graduated the sport fell off my radar.
“Four years ago, a friend and I decided to head to the courts at Lammas Park, slightly nervous after 20 years away from the sport, with technical skills forgotten and fitness levels somewhat diminished!
“After a few months, our netball skills had improved so we decided to form a mums’ Back to Netball team. In our first match, the scoreline wasn’t very flattering, but we really enjoyed playing together and we persevered.
“Before we knew it, we had gone from being the new kids on the block to league champions in possession of the cup! We now play in one of the most competitive leagues in West London on a Thursday.
“We have even started our very own academy and some of the mums have now encouraged their daughters to play with us on a Thursday.
“More women need to get back into team sport. Let's bring about change.”