International Women's Day 2021: Izzy Cottrell

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we have spoken to five incredible members of the Netball Family who all #ChooseToChallenge. 

Displaying resilience and determination, all these women either thrive working in a role or field some may perceive to be gender biased, continue to break down barriers or successfully challenge age stereotypes. 

In this article, we are delighted to feature 21-year-old Izzy Cottrell, who was the UK Coaching National Young Coach of the Year in 2018, England Netballs National Young Volunteer of the Year in 2019 and the East Midlands Netball Young Volunteer of the Year for three consecutive years (2017-2020). 

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We spoke to Izzy about her volunteering and achievements, young people getting the recognition and credit they deserve, and more. 

On her volunteering and achievements 

“I currently volunteer in a variety of places. One of my main roles is as the Head Coach of the Y7-9 competitive participation group at Dronfield Netball Club. I deliver weekly coaching sessions to the girls (via Zoom at the moment), helping them to increase their tactical and technical knowledge of the game and creating a feel-good fun environment where they feel enthused about exercising. Doing the Cha Cha Slide as your warmup at 9am on a Saturday morning is always a good way to crack a few smiles! 

I am also a voluntary member of staff at Lady Manners School within their PE Department and have supported them for years in games and PE lessons, alongside a multitude of extra-curricular clubs and fixtures. I was even lucky enough to be a member of staff on their overseas netball tour in 2019.” 

On her volunteering hours 

“Since the age of 17, I have been keeping a log of all my major volunteering hours and so far, I am on a total of 7,505 hours which is approximately 313 days! So yes, it takes up a lot of my time. I also dont write down every time it takes me an hour to plan a session or a last-minute cover where someone cant do their session  if I wrote down every single time I’ve volunteered for something, that total would be a lot bigger.  

However, I absolutely love all of the volunteering that I do. In the past I have been called crazy’ or over-committed, but I always think if you love it and you can balance it healthily with the other commitments in your life then why not? Volunteering is amazing because it gives you a chance to give back to all of those people and organisations who have helped you. As a trainee PE teacher myself, seeing what a difference you can make in young peoples lives and giving them the confidence to be competent movers and enjoy exercise is invaluable.” 

On what drives her to volunteer 

“My main drivers for volunteering are knowing that I am helping to make a positive difference in other peoples lives. Sport and physical activity would not function without volunteers and being part of the volunteer family is fantastic. I think on the whole volunteers are pretty selfless people and this helps to create such an inclusive and nurturing atmosphere between us all  Ive made some great friends through volunteering.  

Everyone has that one person in their life who has truly helped to inspire them or spark that flame. For me, it was my PE teachers at school – Hayley Athey and Jayne Roach. Because of their dedication and commitment to provide sporting opportunities for all, they gave me the belief which allowed me to develop beyond my visions. I would love to have that positive impact on people who I coach or teach.” 

On the skills that help her to be a great volunteer 

“I would say that I am very committed and dedicated. If I commit to something, I will work my absolute hardest to be the best version of myself possible or create the best experience possible for the people I am coaching or teaching.  

Im also very hard-working and organised so that I can keep on top of everything, as sometimes it can get a bit tricky balancing university work with coaching and training (as Im a netball player myself). I like doing things for other people and knowing that I am helping to make a positive difference is a massive driver for me.” 

On winning her awards 

“Obviously, it means a lot and it was amazing to be recognised for all my hard work. However, when youre volunteering you dont do it for the accolades and the awards, you do it because you want to help people and give back to the community that has given you so much. But I do think its important to recognise volunteers because without them sport just wouldnt happen.” 

On young people getting the credit they deserve 

“I would say sometimes, and especially recently, young people have received bad press – for example, when the COVID-19 cases started to rise again in October, university students were the first to be blamed, when a lot of them were still following the restrictions and being sensible. Unfortunately, there are always people who dont abide and break the rules, but we all got blanketed as ‘rule breakers’ and ‘problem makers’. So, I would say that in that aspect I dont think we get the credit we deserve. There are countless young people doing amazing things and I think there could be more recognition of this.  

However, in the netball world I would say that generally young people do get the recognition they deserve. Talented young athletes are recognised in pathways and are given opportunities through franchises. Young volunteers are utilised in their clubs and there is scope for them to record their hours and be recognised via the ‘Pass On Your Passion’ scheme. I know, as a young volunteer myself, it took a long time of dedicating myself and putting in the hours, but the recognition did come and Ive always been really well supported. Since gaining national recognition via my award, Ive been involved in some really exciting projects with England Netball helping to raise and promote the importance of the Youth Voice.” 

Izzy represents England Netball as a Youth Voice on the National Youth Sport Forum (led by the Youth Sport Trust). The Forum is a collective group of young people aged 16-24 from partner organisations across the sector who will influence the future direction and policy of school sport and activity to ensure that sport and sport in education policy is informed and challenged by the views of young people. 

On her advice to others 

“Something for me that is really important is communication and talking to people because thats how you gain your contacts and opportunities. Opportunities do come up, but they come up more easily if you seek them out. If youre at school, talk to your PE teachers and ask them how you can get involved. If youre at a club, talk to the other coaches and see what you can do. Theres probably someone around that can give you a bit of support and mentoring, especially when youre a young leader and they can see potential in you.  

Dont be afraid to start, even if you think that you havent got enough time, or you dont have the skills, somebody will be there to help you. Its such a special thing to be a part of. Anyone thats thinking about it, do it! Go for it!” 

On life in lockdown 

Life in lockdown has been a mixed bag! Im very lucky in the fact that Ive been back at my parents’ house and my brother is also back from university, so Ive had lots of people around me the whole time. However, I think like everyone there have been many ups and downs and it hasnt all been plain sailing. Completing your final year of your degree is a challenging task anyway but throw in a global pandemic on top of that and it becomes tricky!  

As the lockdowns have gone on its been hard to stay motivated, but something that Ive found really helpful is getting outside every day for a walk, no matter what the weather. I think its really important to take a break away from our screens as we seem to be living and breathing Zoom these days.  

Im also training with Dronfield Netball Club three times a week over Zoom, completing strength and conditioning, tactical and technical work, and movement and fitness sessions, alongside completing ball skills and fitness work in my own time. I find exercising is one of my main forms of stress release and it helps me to relax. Being out in the fresh air helps me feel calm and its definitely a good way to clear your head. 

Some of the things Ive found most challenging have been having to adjust to the new normal. All my friends will vouch that Im the sort of person that is constantly on the go, so being forced to slow down and not being able to go anywhere was hard at first. However, I think its also given us a lot of time to reflect and evaluate on the things that seemed like a big deal before. You realise that actually all thats important is the health and happiness of your friends and family. 

Find out more about all the individuals whose stories we’ll be sharing over the course of the week here.

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