Thousands of women across the country took part in synchronised Back to Netball sessions on the 10th October to celebrate the flagship participation programme, which was first launched 10 years ago by England Netball, to encourage people of all ages to play the sport recreationally.
In 2008, the first Back to Netball session began in the East of England, providing a gentle re-introduction to the sport of netball for women in the region.
Since then, interest in the programme has grown significantly, with 200 sessions now taking place each week across the country and England Netball welcoming its 100,000th participant this month.
To celebrate the success and growth of the programme, thousands of women across the country came together to take part in synchronised sessions yesterday, which were jam packed with netball games, cake and balloons.
Joanna Adams, CEO of England Netball, said: “I am incredibly proud of Back to Netball and all that it has achieved over the last 10 years.
“Since its inception, this programme has enabled an amazing 100,000 people to get back into the sport and has helped women improve their physical, social and mental wellbeing by playing netball and developing long lasting friendships.
“It was brilliant to be able to mark these successes with celebration events across the country.
“The network of specially trained coaches we have that help run these sessions nationally are a key factor in the success of Back to Netball, I’d like to thank them for all that they do in making participants feel so welcome and at ease when taking part.
“We are incredibly grateful to Sport England as well for investing in this programme over the last 10 years.
“We can’t wait to see what the next decade has in store for this growing and popular initiative.”
A recent survey conducted by England Netball revealed that 98% of participants said they would recommend Back to Netball to others, and 97% said Back to Netball made them more physically active and led to them living a healthier lifestyle.
One lady who decided to take a shot at Back to Netball was Mandy Newport from Bristol.
She said: “I used to play netball when I was in my 20’s and 30’s and I decided it was something I really wanted to get back in to.
“I decided I wanted to do some sort of exercise while I was doing a weight loss programme.
“When I first started I was a lot bigger, I was 19 and a half stone – I’ve started losing weight, I’ve lost almost seven and a half stone.
“Everyone is just so friendly, all ages, all women together just having fun and enjoying netball.
“The three words I think I would use to describe Back to Netball are fun, friendship and fitness!”
Over the course of the last six months, netball has taken the country by storm following the England Roses’ historic triumph at the Commonwealth Games.
“During the Games alone more than 7,000 participants came through England Netball’s engagement programmes, which includes Back to Netball and Walking Netball, with participation still continuing to grow since the sport was thrust into the limelight.
Helen Housby, Commonwealth Games gold medallist, said: “My mum actually does Back to Netball, she told me all about the sessions and she loves it.
“It’s a great initiative and I know that the Commonwealth Games did change a lot of things and the interest that it garnered for the sport is amazing, I hope we can keep that interest going.”
Back to Netball sessions can be found via the session finder on England Netball’s website.
Interview with Joanna Adams
BBC Radio London (listen from 44 minutes 19 seconds)
BBC Radio Manchester (listen from around 50 minutes)
The Northern Echo