After a year in which young people have missed out on so much and had their worlds turned upside down, sport and physical activity are playing an essential role in their recovery.
This National School Sport Week, the Vitality Roses reflect on their school sport experiences and how they not only helped nurture a love of netball but also celebrate the importance of the social and emotional wellbeing benefits.
Championing sport for its all-round value, Gabby Marshall remembers how important school sport was for her mental health.
“I think school sport is great – for me, it was a real stress reliever,” she explains.
“There were times where you’d be so focused on exams or being in the classroom and I thought sport was a great way for me to get outside, get some fresh air, spend time with my friends and just really have a mental break from the pressures of being at school.”
And what about the life skills that sport can teach you? “It’s a really great way to burn all that energy that you’ve got and the skills that you learn I think will carry you through for the rest of your life – things like teamwork and leadership – and there are also the friendships that you make,” continues Gabby.
One joy of playing netball is the team element, which was a huge positive for Sophie Drakeford-Lewis when she started playing.
“I was playing tennis at quite a high level, which is obviously a big individual sport,” she explains.
“I think I started playing netball because I loved the team environment. It was such a change – it was a lot more relaxed and I think that’s one of the main reasons I love playing the game now. I just love being part of the team.
“Everyone’s just so supportive and everyone is just pushing to be better and I really enjoy being in that kind of environment.”
Eleanor Cardwell is another advocate of how sport can bring people together.
“School sport is massively important and especially to me as a young girl, I remember my first-ever experience of sport was actually joining the netball team and making all my friends,” she says.
“My best friend was actually new to the country and I just dragged her along to netball training and that’s how she got into sport and she did amazing as well.
“I wouldn’t be here today without the sport curriculum in primary and secondary school to be honest.”
And, dare we say it, it’s not just about netball either! School sports in general have been so beneficial to all the Vitality Roses – “I played every sport under the sun!” says Laura Malcolm – and they actively encourage you to get out there and give them all a go.