On the International Day of Friendship, we look at how your netball friends go far beyond the court.

The dictionary definition of friendship is “the relationship between people who help and support you” – and how could you better describe a netball team than people helping and supporting each other? While cries of “Here if you need!” can be heard on netball courts around the world, it’s the way we show we really are here when our friends need us that prove that netball is an amazing tool for making and nurturing friendships. Today, Thursday 30th July 2020, is the International Day of Friendship, and we’ve seen how your netball friends have got you through the past few difficult months.

From Pass the Ball videos, to Zoom quizzes, fancy dress video calls and sending letters to each other during lockdown, you have shown how your friendships are just as important to you off the court as on.

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Bradworthy & Holsworthy All Blacks Netball Club started lockdown by delivering a ball and bib to each player, and then went on to share virtual drinks, chats and shooting sessions, as well as encouraging each other to do the Couch to 5km running challenge, and stay in touch with each other until they could meet again.

All Blacks in Lockdown 🖤

Wednesday is our usual training night…. thought you would be interested in what we have been up to in lockdown!

Posted by Bradworthy and Holsworthy All Blacks Netball Club on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Meanwhile Lanivet Pandas Netball Club shared their ‘Pass the Toilet Roll’ challenge, staying connected and making each other laugh, as well as pulling together to make masks for the local hospital.

The Netball Family is something that we’re proud of in this sport, with clubs up and down the country knowing they can rely on their teammates.

“One of the things that we take pride in at Cumberland is having that family network,” says Polini Langi, head of coaching at Cumberland Netball Club.

“We are always there for each other, have that respect and trust, and are really positive. This is particularly true in the Premier League squad; our pre-game chat is all about having those positive team vibes.”

And as well as helping us on court, many netballers have explained how the friendships they’ve made have helped them in other aspects of life too.

As Harriet, who joined Belper Netball Club, explains: “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.

Harriet has seen the positive impact of the sport first-hand, saying: “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.”

And it’s not just us in the community who can see the benefits of friendships made through netball, as some of the Vitality Roses tell us.

“It’s a great way to get outside with your friends,” says Gabby Marshall. “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.”

It’s a sentiment that Eleanor Cardwell shares. “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 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.”

We’ve heard from multiple people who’ve moved to a new city or country and the first thing they’ve done is look for a new netball team, knowing it will bring them connections, social interactions and, above all, friendships.

Nat Haythornthwaite recalls making friends with Nat Panagarry since playing together at the age of 14, recalling how coaching legend Marion Lofthouse would drive them to training then they’d both fall asleep on the way home. “That was always good,” laughs Nat H.

“When the World Cup team came out, I wanted to ring your mum!” she remembers, of her excitement that her friend Nat P had also made the team.

And it’s the friendships of all ages that really warm our hearts and makes us realise what a bonding sport netball is. Jan, a Walking Netballer from Perranarworthal in Cornwall, started playing four months after her husband sadly passed away. Since then she has been religiously playing (prior to lockdown), organising her group of WI ladies, recruiting, and making everyone laugh every single week.

“You will hear laughter and shouts and ‘over here!’. Everyone is determined to do well and if we don’t, more laughter.  You gain confidence and can move and mark, and sometimes even score a goal for goodness sake!” she laughs, adding that the friendships she’s made have kept loneliness away. “Above all you get to know people you may have only said hello to, and there is genuine warmth and companionship – we’re all in this together.  It’s just like this strange situation; we’re all in it together.”

Not just today, on the International Day of Friendship, but tomorrow and every day, you know your netball friends will always be “here if you need”.

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Written by Lucy Higgins

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