Some clubs, for a variety of reasons, just seem set to have big seasons in certain years. Last year, the university’s netball club had one of those seasons, as the first team were promoted for the first time in a decade.
This year, the netball club are aiming to replicate this achievement with their other two teams and are looking for the club as a whole to have a successful season. I spoke to the club’s vice-captain, Emma Loft, about all things netball.
After she informed me that she had never seen such a high standard of netball in pre-season, I ask Emma why she thinks that this is the case, “I think that it’s the way we have promoted the club on social media. We’ve revamped the image of the club, making it look a lot more professional and serious.
“We really wanted to get people in with a drive to play netball. We uploaded a lot of pictures, showing them what we did in training. The way that the captain [Hollie Dixson] and I wanted to do trials was to really plan it beforehand so that we could turn up on the day and spend all of our time watching the Freshers.
“One major thing that we changed this year was that we had a cut-off point mid-way through the first day. So we looked at everybody on the first day and those who we invited back on the second day trialled with our current girls, who all re-trialled this year.”
What is apparent is that Emma and the rest of the netball club’s committee really planned to have a strong start to the season. Part of this planning has seen the club hire a brand new coach to help train their girls, something which I’m sure will only help elevate the performances of all three teams.
The netball club have really taken on a new approach this year, not only by rebranding the club to make it look more attractive to prospective players, but also in overhauling the process of trialling Freshers, to ensure that they pick up on the best possible talent as early as possible.
I next ask Emma what the club’s expectations are for the season, she tells me that the coming year will be tough and as a result, the club has to be realistic, “Our goals are so much higher than ever before, but in order to aim high, we have to put in place solid foundations beforehand. That is what we did last term with the new committee, we’ve been planning over summer what we really want.
“We knew that this year was going to be tough, it’s the first year where the current members have had to re-trial for their positions. It meant that some people didn’t get what they expected and people were upset about that.”
I have to admire the netball club at this point, it’s not easy telling friends and team mates who you played with last year that they might not be guaranteed a spot on the team for this year. It’s a bold direction for the club to take, but one that will surely pay off. It will allow the netball club to have the best possible talent at their disposable, something that Emma expands on.
“It’s about giving everybody a chance to prove themselves and I think that is why so much talent came in because we weren’t looking for who could fill in the gaps. It was more a case of looking at who is good enough for the team.”
Emma then explains to me the system of old and it’s clear that the changes the new committee have made are certainly radical, “Once you made the team, that was the team, you became part of UYNC. Like in other sports teams, you could drift in, be a social member, then play.
“You got to know the girls on your team so well because of the hours that you put in together in training as a team. We needed to take that aspect away and realise that if we want to get promotion, it has got to be a case of whoever is playing the highest level of netball gets to make the team.”
It is clear that this year, the netball teams are being picked on merit, rather than having teams set in stone because everyone on the team is good mates with one another. This approach only backs up the new professional mind-set of the netball club and I’m sure that if the club sticks with it, they will reap the rewards of promotion and beyond.
The club’s desire to play a better standard of netball is only reinforced when Emma goes on to tell me about the exciting training opportunities happening at the club at the moment, “We’ve got the Yorkshire Jets coming in and giving us two sessions this term with a view to making it a more regular fixture. We watch the NSL League quite often before matches and we wanted to have some one-on-one coaching with them to see how they work in person.”
I then ask Emma what makes the netball club stand out in comparison to the other clubs here at York, her response is one that I half expected, “Everyone plays netball. Football and netball seem to be the traditional games that are handed to people when they are younger. It’s readily available, you get a ball, you get some posts and you can play.
“Here at York, I think the thing that netball really stands out for, especially this year, is the time and effort that people put in to make this a good club. This year, we tried to do it well in advance during the summer by sourcing sponsorship and getting everybody involved. We had a load of meetings with people and really went the extra mile and thought outside of the box.”
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get and that has really paid off for us. If we can put lots of effort in now to get money and resources for the club, then we have no reason not to be the best that we can be this year.”
There is a rather unfair stereotype that is attached to netball teams, one of being unfriendly and perhaps one that causes outsiders of the sport to view clubs as breeding grounds for cliques.
However, after chatting with Emma it is fair to say that this stereotype is completely unfair. The netball club seem to have a fair approach to selection and are even actively seeking to shake things up and reduce the familiarity of each individual team.
It’s clear to me that the netball club is in safe hands. A new approach has seen them increase the standard of talent at the club. Sometimes, clubs need new impetus to keep things moving in the right direction, it seems that the netball club have plenty of impetus to strive for promotion, let’s hope this manifests itself in glory come the end of the season.