Group photos of Ann Bennett with her Perdi’s Poppets teammates
A fun-loving Worcester resident reckons her post-retirement rediscovery of netball has catapulted her social life to new unexpected heights.
Ann Bennett retired as a senior housing manager in 2017 but soon spotted a notice at her local leisure centre to promote Walking Netball.
Bennett, 59, had quit netball decades ago when she first started senior school but was stirred into life by the notice and couldn’t resist taking to the court once again.
She’s loved her regular visits to the fun, laughter and camaraderie-filled sessions and says the game-changing programme has given her a new lease of life.
Bennett said: “I retired in December 2017 and I was really keen to do two things: to get fit and meet new people.
“At that time, when I wasn’t particularly fit, [Walking Netball] was a really great introduction to getting back into doing physical activity and competitive activity, because I do like competition, there’s no doubt about that!
“But it was also about meeting new people, and I think because I was there from the start, everybody was in the same position. We were all starting this from fresh.
“The ladies that I play with all came from different places – some of them had played netball all their lives and were looking for a toned-down version of netball, while some were like me who hadn’t played since junior school and some ladies had never played netball at all.”
For the uninitiated, Walking Netball is all the fun of netball just with less of the speed – although Bennett admits you still get out of breath, mostly from laughing.
“We call it ‘wiggle and giggle’ – we started off wiggling and giggling, but after a few months, we thought: ‘oh, yeah, we could be quite competitive around this,’” she added.
“I would describe it as a sort of slower version of normal netball, most of the same rules, but obviously, you’re playing at a slower pace, you’re walking rather than running.
“There’s no jumping, and you have a slightly longer time to pass the ball as well. But we’re still huffing and puffing at the end of the session.”
Bennett is part of a team called Perdi’s Poppets in Worcester, who have done everything together from winning leagues to going on holiday.
And she said: “We’ve all become friends as well as meeting every week – we did a lot of fundraising because unfortunately one of our members died during lockdown.
“We’ve played in tournaments and we won the inaugural Worcestershire Walking Netball League the year before last, which was fantastic.
“Some of us have been on holiday together so it’s just really nice. It’s expanded from a weekly physical session into a much bigger thing.”