As a member of the England Futures programme, Halimat Adio is one of the youngest players currently involved with the Vitality Roses. Despite her age, she has already gained vast experience at international and club level.
The defender is one of the hottest prospects in English netball due to her evident quality and performances in the Vitality Netball Superleague and for her country at youth level.
“I’ve become a stronger and better athlete”
Adio is currently a member of the England Futures programme and has been for the last two years.
The programme gives younger players the chance to develop their skills around more senior members of the Vitality Roses set-up.
The 21-year old has been delighted with her inclusion and believes it has helped her become a better athlete.
“I’ve been in England Futures for two years and I think that’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because I’ve just progressed as an athlete and become a stronger and better athlete. I’m quite proud of myself for that,” she said.
Her involvement on the international stage has not been a new development, however, and she has represented her country on several occasions at youth level from the age of 17.
While injury stopped her appearing at the Netball World Youth Cup in 2017, the London Pulse player has been on numerous tours and became an U21 Netball Europe champion last year.
“I got selected at an National Performance League (NPL) tournament and then got invited to an England positional camp and from there I was selected for the U19s. I went on tour to Jamaica and South Africa with that team.
“I also got selected into the U21 youth side and was a reserve for the Netball World Youth Cup which unfortunately I couldn’t go to due to injury. Even though that was a setback, it didn’t stop me from pursuing netball and it just made me stronger as a person.”
Adio was selected for her first senior competition in the form of Netball Europe last September.
Adio was selected by head coach Sam Bird to start all three games in Northern Ireland as England went onto win the competition.
The goal keeper’s performances and regular starting spot at Netball Europe Open signal a promising start to this new four-year cycle for Adio.
“My aims for the coming season are to stay in the programme and to be selected for upcoming tours,” she said.
“I just want to improve as a player and to get more exposure, whether that’s international or getting more court-time in the Vitality Netball Superleague. That’s what I want to do and that’s what will inevitably make me a better player.”
“I wanted to play for my country”
London-born Adio is only at the beginning of her career but is right in the midst of her own netball journey.
Due to her sister’s influence, she began playing netball in primary school and began to realise the importance of the sport as her education progressed. By the time she reached college, she had only one aim in mind.
“I got into netball in primary school because my older sister used to play – she used to play all sports. I wanted to copy her because she really inspires me. That was the reason why I started and I just began to enjoy it more,” she explained.
“In secondary school, I decided that I was going to take it more seriously. By the time I got to college, I knew that I wanted to play at a competitive level. I wanted to play for my country. Since then, I haven’t stopped.”
Adio can play in a variety of different positions including goal keeper, goal defence and wing defence. However, when she began, she was playing at the other end of the court.
“When I first started, I was actually a goal shooter. I trialled for county two times as a goal shooter and both times I didn’t get in.
“I was a shooter for many years so I thought that I would try as a goal keeper and a defender to see what would happen. I got into county as a defender and into regionals. Since then, I’ve only ever been a defender.”
“She would support me in every way possible”
The youngster had plenty of role models to look up to when she was growing up; some close to home and others on the other side of the world.
Growing up in a period when world netball was more accessible than ever before, Adio was able to pull attributes from some of the globe’s biggest stars.
“Once I started to progress in netball, I started to look at other defenders. I think that Laura Geitz and Sharni Layton were the big ones for me. As a young girl, I would see them play and I would hear so much about them from my coaches.
“They would be the ones who our coaches would encourage us to study. They would say ‘You need to look at these defenders and you need to try and be like them’. They influenced me a lot because of that.”
Role models don’t have to be elite netballers, though. Often, the biggest influences on players’ careers are friends or family members.
While Adio was also looking up to Serena Williams and coach Dannii Titmuss, it was her family that remained the most important part of her journey.
“My biggest influence when I first started playing netball was my sister because I copied everything she did. She was so sporty. She did all of these sports and I wanted to be exactly like her.
“I would say that my mum is probably my biggest role model. She’s always seeing how I am and she would always help me financially. She was really behind me and would support me in every single way possible. When I didn’t get a trial, she would always tell me to carry on and that I shouldn’t get too down about it.”