On Saturday 19 June, youth engagement officers in south London joined forces with the London & South East Regional Netball Association, England Netball and London Pulse to run a netball experience day for vulnerable young women and girls.
The day provided a hands-on opportunity for at-risk young women from the local area to learn and play netball, as part of a wider prevention initiative that looks to use sport as a positive outlet.
Twenty-five young women were selected to attend by the youth engagement teams from Croydon, Bromley and Sutton, and through local mentoring partners: Project for Youth Empowerment, Mentivity, The Refugee Council and the Volunteer Police Cadets.
Whilst there are several sporting diversion schemes for young men, the Met’s Youth Engagement Team at Croydon identified a gap in the provision of similar opportunities available to young women.
London Pulse, the capital’s only Vitality Netball Superleague team and an organisation passionate about attracting, inspiring and nurturing the most talented netballers from all backgrounds, sent down an elite coach to lead a day of training and netball match play.
Superintendent Andy Brittain, Partnership and Neighbourhood Policing, said: “Events like this change the narrative around the challenges our young people are facing within our communities and give them opportunities to showcase their talents, especially in sport.
“We are often aware in our jobs that young people who don’t have lots of advantages face what can feel like overwhelming obstacles – which unfortunately lockdown has only increased – so I was delighted when the London & South East Regional Netball Association, England Netball and London Pulse agreed to help us run this event, to offer a new and exciting opportunity to the young woman in our area.”
A guest appearance from Pulse’s star goal shooter and Vitality Roses Futures player, Olivia Tchine, provided an opportunity to see first-hand how netball supports physical and mental discipline, leadership and focus, and creates strong female role models.
Tchine said: “It was fantastic to be here today and work with such a fantastic group of girls. At London Pulse we believe that netball is for everyone and should be accessible to all.
“Netball is about so much more than sport – it’s about teamwork, commitment, dedication and leadership, as well as having fun and keeping fit.”
The girls also benefited from a talk from Janet Hills MBE, the Chair of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, who has coached and volunteered in the London & South East region for over 29 years.
This event was created as a youth diversion scheme, aimed at building trust and positive connections between young people and the Police, as well as giving these girls the opportunity to learn about and play a new sport as a positive outlet.
Lucy Goodman, Regional Co-ordinator from the London & South East Netball Association, said: “As a region that is tirelessly committed to empowering women through netball and knocking down participation barriers, it is incredible to see this initiative come to life in today’s pilot.
“We believe in the power of sport as a vehicle for positive change, so our hope is that today has helped these young women begin to realise their potential and learn that netball is a sport where everyone is welcomed; where we can all feel like a member of the same team.”
Fran Connolly, CEO of England Netball, added: “It is fantastic to see members of the Netball Family coming together alongside the Met’s Youth Engagement Team in a bid to get more young women in the area active. Netball is much more than just a sport, it’s a welcoming community.
“I hope today has given these young women a flavour of how much fun it can be and has given them a chance to connect with others. We’re very thankful for the efforts that have gone on behind the scenes to getting this initiative up and running.”