My teacher, my inspiration

Vitality Nations Cup - Nottingham Motorpoint Arena

During National School Sport Week, the Vitality Roses talk through the teachers who have influenced their netball careers.

Those who can, teach. And those who really, really can, coach netball! That might not be exactly how the saying goes, but ask almost any netballer about their journey in the sport and you’re likely to hear about a teacher who’s coached and inspired them. And it’s no different for the Vitality Roses, who remember the teachers who set them on the path to netball stardom!

“My biggest influence was probably my first netball coach, who was my first PE teacher at school,” says Iona Christian. “She got me into netball and then she carried our Year 7 team all the way through to sixth form. She coached me for quite a long time.”

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Vicki Oyesola also has keen memories of playing netball at school, and the teacher who got her started. “I started playing netball in primary school when I was 10,” she says. “When I first started playing, my PE coach at primary school was probably the biggest influence on me. He was a really keen netballer and a really good coach. We did really well as a school team.”

Spotting talent and helping children to match their sporting passion for the sport that’s right for them is another skill our netballers are grateful for in their teachers, particularly one of Olivia Tchine’s teachers. “My biggest influence when I started playing netball was definitely my primary school teacher. I had problems in school trying to find the right sport for me,” she says. “It was hard because I didn’t really know which one was for me. I tried athletics, swimming, basketball and even rounders. When I played those, I just felt like they weren’t for me and that there was something else out there. If it wasn’t for my primary school teacher suggesting netball, I don’t think I would have ever started playing and have never found the right sport for me.”

As well as igniting the love for the sport, teachers were often the ones who encouraged the Vitality Roses to take their passion further, as Amy Carter remembers. “I got into netball in primary school and really enjoyed playing it for the High 5 team,” she says. “My primary school teacher was really passionate about netball so she was the one who advised me to go to my first club at about 10 or 11, and then a netball summer camp.”

This passion and drive that can come from our teachers has seen many of the Vitality Roses take that first step to playing competitive netball. “I think my biggest influence when I started out was my school teacher, who suggested to start out at my local club, which was Woodley Netball Club,” says Sophie Drakeford-Lewis. “I think this really kind of got me into playing netball at a higher standard. I was training more and met loads of new people. I was just really enjoying being involved in a team environment and I definitely don’t think I’d be where I am today without her advice to start at a netball club.”

And thank goodness for those teachers, as without them many of the Vitality Roses don’t think they’d be playing now, including Razia Quashie, who says her biggest influence was her PE teacher and form tutor, and that she didn’t take sport too seriously beforehand. “I just played because I loved being active and loved playing sport in general,” she explains. “But she was the one who put me up for county trials, [which led to] putting myself in the pathway and excelling all the way through to the Vitality Roses. She got me to attend trials and give it a go – without her, I don’t know if I’d be doing netball at this current time.”

As Halimat Adio recognises, it’s not just that first step into netball that we can thank teachers for, but sometimes it’s the ones who push us to believe in ourselves and see where our potential can take us.

“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,” she says. “I wanted to play for my country. Since then, I haven’t stopped.”

So all you teachers out there doing an incredible job during National School Sport Week (and every week!), remember you don’t know who you’re inspiring… or who they might go on to play for.

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Written by Lucy Higgins

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