Net gain for women’s sport

In her latest column on local sports clubs Bobbie Makoni shoots some hoops with Leyton Netball Club

Leyton Netball Club

Leyton Netball Club train at the Copper Box Arena, down the road in Stratford

For years research has shown a huge disparity in the number of men and women participating in sport.

Campaigns such as Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ aim to get women and girls moving, regardless of shape, size and ability. However, there is one sport which most young girls are introduced to at an early age, a sport which has seen a recreational revival over the last few years; netball.

Media coverage of the big international netball matches and domestic leagues have certainly increased of late. While schools across the country continue to introduce and develop young players, there has also been a large resurgence in the sport as an after-work and weekend activity for adults.

One programme developing young talent and offering opportunities for adults to pick up the sport again is Leyton Netball Club. Each week at the iconic Copper Box Arena in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park around 40 juniors and 60 adults show up for training and match play.

Coach Sarah Ivemy enjoys a warm relationship with the players; her breadth of knowledge and relaxed nature marries well with the diverse personalities and abilities within the squads. She explains that while winning matches is important at any club sport, her priority for the younger girls is giving them all as many opportunities as possible to get on court.

She says: “Everyone develops at different times, so I don’t just want to drill the top seven players as I don’t want any of them to become discouraged and end up leaving the sport.

“A number of the girls come from schools where there are few or no netball opportunities so it’s important they get a chance to develop as well.”

The club actively promotes progression between the junior and senior programmes. I spoke with Lily Hart and Georgia John, two players enjoying their first season in the adult squad.
“Everybody gets along really well, it’s like a family,” says Lily. “It’s good to have the older girls here to give us advice.”

Despite a challenging fitness regime, Georgia says she is enjoying the advanced training: “It was a tough transition but it’s been really good, I feel like it has helped take my netball to another level.”

Bonds between players are strengthened further by team-building activities and an annual off-season trip to Pontin’s in Somerset. Both the adults and juniors play in the Essex Met League. Training takes place on Wednesday evenings at 6.30pm for juniors and 8pm for seniors.

For more information on Leyton Netball Club: