Now that I am officially old and am faced with the somewhat scary fact that there are more years behind me than I have years ahead (now that is a sobering thought!), I find that I am reminiscing more and more,about things that have taken place in the past. I am thankful to say that I am not so dull as to have led a life devoid of anything but netball,
but as it was over 40 years ago that I picked up a ball for the first time (obviously I was embryonic at the time!), it does feature pretty heavily in the tapestry of my life.
Netball runs through my veins which is probably why however hard I try to retire gracefully, I just can’t quite do it and continue to wheel myself out onto court every year. My relationship with it is not that of a good friend, but one much more consanguineous as it part of my DNA. An ex boyfriend of mine used to say that netball defined me and I think he was right. Netball has always been there in my life, playing a role. When I was at school, this role was a backstage one, something that was there, but stayed quietly in the background. Then when I left school and joined my first club, netball became more important to me and played an understudy role to my horses and when the horses were gone, netball moved into the spotlight and took centre stage and has occupied that top billing spot ever since.
But that top billing has been richly deserved. When I look at the path my life has taken, netball has supported me in so many guises. Quite apart from the sheer amount of pleasure I have gleaned from playing the sport for all these years, it has helped me grow as a person. Joining my first adult club whilst still at school at the age of 15 was a somewhat scary event. It was a work team from Trebor Sharps and we practiced on a hastily chalk marked court in the car park each week. I was terrified of the girls as they were a somewhat raucous bunch, tough and took no nonsense and most of the time I kept very quiet when I was around them, but I remember once during a match when I was unceremoniously face planted on the tarmac by a mean Goal Defence, my Goal Shooter squared up to her in the blink of an eye and harsh words were exchanged!!!! It was at that moment when I gained my first understanding of what being part of a team is all about. Working together and having each other’s back – but maybe without the swearing!
As it became more of an all consuming passion, my relationship with it moved from beyond the court. I began to give more back to the sport, taking on committee roles and responsibilities but the sport was generous too giving me life affirming moments back when I qualified as a umpire and as later as a coach. I used to have a morbid fear of public speaking, but the skills and confidence that I gained from achieving these qualifications, I have subsequently been able to apply to my day to day life which is something I have netball to thank for.
Another time I turned to netball was when I relocated home. It was my “comfort blankie” and made what could have been a slow and difficult integration into a new life much smoother. Joining a club and having that instant common interest makes any transition into a new situation so much easier and it is something that I have seen replicated for many people over the years who join a new club and I am sure it is reflected in many other clubs up and down the country.
But perhaps the biggest gift I have gained through netball is my wonderful netball friends who have become my extended family. When the road has at times become a little rocky, their love and support has always been there and without which, I could have found myself lost so for that, more than anything else, I will be eternally grateful to netball for.