2018/19 has been a whirlwind time for netball in England, which began with a Commonwealth Games gold medal for the Vitality Roses and then saw us enjoy a Netball World Cup on home soil.
Participation rose significantly at all levels across the country off the back of an exciting international cycle for the Vitality Roses, as thousands of people were inspired to play netball or more netball.
One of those individuals was Harriet Kelly, a 24-year-old private nanny from the Midlands, who has been on a dramatic journey of her own.
Harriet decided to start playing more netball at a higher level in February and, due to the social and active nature of the sport, she found that it helped to significantly improve her mental and physical wellbeing in the space of a few months.
At the turn of the year, Harriet was down about her weight and felt isolated as a result. She now gets active through netball regularly and has lost an incredible six stone since she joined a local netball club.
“Netball has had the biggest impact on my life in the past year,” she said.
“I started a weight loss journey in February this year and, since losing six stone, I’ve become a better player. My stamina is better and I can put more into my game, and I get more out of it.
“Each week, I can feel that I’m getting fitter and it’s getting easier to play. The more weight I lose, the happier I’m becoming. Without netball, none of that would have been possible.”
A Public Health England survey recently revealed that more than eight in ten (83%) people have experienced early signs of poor mental health.
England Netball is supporting Every Mind Matters; a new campaign which aims to help people take simple steps to look after their mental wellbeing and support others. We know from hearing from many participants that netball can have a direct, combative effect on feelings of stress or anxiety.
Harriet explained: “My mental health was not good at all. I felt so isolated and alone and I got myself into a dark place.
“I then got asked by a friend to join their netball team. Playing with new people gave me confidence in myself that I never knew I had. They believed in me and that I could do it.
“The level was higher than I’d ever played before so it made me step up. I had some incredible games with them and I already felt more confident when playing.”
Since joining Belper Netball Club, as well as playing in Leicestershire, Harriet has seen the positive impact of the sport first-hand whether that’s on or off the court.
She said: “The game itself is easily adaptable for any level and ability. It encourages ladies who may feel isolated or alone to join a sport and make friends.
“It’s the game, the competitive play, the social friendships, the fitness but also the whole community. Being able to go and watch the Vitality Roses or Superleague teams with my friends that I met through netball is priceless. I’m so lucky to have found something I love doing.”
Harriet is continuing to enjoy netball and plans to get more involved with the sport, as she will soon be going for her Level Two UK Coaching Certificate (UKCC), which proves this inspiring journey isn’t over yet.
“Without netball, I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today. Netball is for everyone and no one is judging you. I always thought people would talk and laugh at me, but they never did. Anybody can do this.”
Every Mind Matters shows people the simple ways they can look after their mental health and be better prepared for life’s ups and downs. Find out more about the initiative here.