I’m a bit obsessed, I won’t lie. I only restarted playing netball 2 years ago in February 2015, when I bravely walked into a Back to Netball session hoping to gain some fitness and meet some people. 9 months later I was training with Swadlincote Netball Club. A few months after that, I was organising friendlies for the other new players in the Club. Then, by the summer of 2016, I was elected to the position of Secretary of Swadlincote Netball Club, Registrations Secretary for NWLNL (despite never playing in the League (gulp)) and was voted as Captain for the newly formed Swadlincote Starlings team.
So, what have I learnt in my first season in NWNL?
Firstly, how well run the League is. I might be a bit biased, but coming in as a complete outsider, being privy to the inner workings of the committee and participating in matches, has given me a unique perspective.
Registration for the season takes place primarily over the summer, but also throughout the year as new players are added to teams. All a team/club has to do is email in the details 2 weeks prior to the match the player is to play in and the registration fee is added to the monthly invoice.
Fixtures are organised prior to the season start for the 1st half of the season, and again at Christmas for the 2nd half of the season. These are emailed out to the clubs, put on the website and on the Facebook page. All teams can rearrange or cancel their matches – forms for doing so are available online and on Facebook – at the agreement of the other team, and the Fixtures & Umpire Secretaries help to faciliate that.
Umpire duties are organised once fixtures are decided. All Division 1 matches are umpired by 2 confident umpires. All Division 2 matches are umpired by 1 confident and 1 non-confident/mentored umpire. This is a great way for new umpires to gain valuable experience on court and learn from their mentors. Players tend to be encouraging on court to new umpires and it is great to see so many new umpires coming through the clubs.
These roles are all supported by the Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Ordinary Members of the Club. Regular face-to-face meetings and a lively Whatsapp group means the Committee are in constant contact, making decisions on important features of the League, from new balls, court availability and match sheets, to the Tournament, Ball and AGM.
Secondly, the Clubs and teams involved are all lovely!!! Who would have thought that a group of ladies with 1 thing in common could get on so well. Rivalries on court remain there. Off court, everyone is friendly, socialable and courteous. Friendly matches are played; officiating and coaching courses are attended; and the social media features of the League mean everyone can easily contact each other.
Thirdly, the standard of play is inspiring and constantly improving. Starlings had a cracking start to the season and were sitting pretty at the top of Division 2; but we must have been drinking different water to the other teams in Div 2, as they came back from the Christmas break fighting and Starlings have finished in 5th place. Watching teams in Division 1 play both scared me (we are so not ready to take on Division 1 teams) and encouraged me (we could be like that in a few years time). The Plate/Cup Tournament draws meant that Starlings have had/will have the opportunity to play Ashby and Measham, both Division 1 teams.
I hadn’t appreciated how much time I would devote to netball on a weekly basis. As League Registrations Secretary, I check emails daily for new registrations, I am currently collating the Tournament registrations and I update the website weekly with fixtures, results and points. Every week, I go through the match sheets from the Sunday’s matches to make sure everyone who played is registered correctly to both England Netball and NWLNL, as well as collecting all the MVP and Sportsmanship votes. As Swad’s Secretary, I check emails daily, I update the rest of the Club with the goings on of the League and County (both have AGMs coming up), and, as a member of the Executive Committee, am involved in decision making for the running of the Club. As Starling’s Captain, I gather my player’s availability for upcoming matches, ensure they are all happy and get to play in their preferred positions as much as possible. I am also training to be an umpire, so I umpire matches for NWLNL, Burton & District Netball League and friendly matches. If I’m ever on the computer or messaging on my phone, my patient husband knows it’s usually netball related and doesn’t mind when it’s 11pm at night and I’m sorting something important out so I’ll actually get some sleep rather than worrying about it overnight. I forget sometimes that my roles are voluntary, and if something in my life has to take a back seat, it should be netball, but I do love it.
So my first season in NWLNL has been enlightening, busy, social and above all fun. Next year I will be more prepared!! And I really hope more teams will join next year, which will mean more matches, more fun and, given the number of non-league teams entering into the Tournament, it might just happen.