Sandwiched between the Irish Sea and the River Wyre, Wyre Netball Club has been at the heart of its community ever since its inception more than two decades ago.
One of the club’s highest priorities of late has been to get more parents involved in netball due to the crucial role they play in a young player’s development both on and off the court.
The initiative has been a rousing success and has seen both mums and dads get on the court in support of their daughters.
“It has been one of our club’s goals over the past 18 months to get more of our parents involved in understanding our sport,” said head coach Abby Chamberlain, who has been part of the club since the age of seven.
“We recognised that parents have as much a crucial role to play in a player’s development as the player themselves. The more we can educate the parents about the game, athlete development on and off court and the training process itself, the more their daughters will develop in their netball, with the support of both coaches and parents.”
Wyre Netball Club hosted a parents’ tournament at the end of June as part of the initiative, which saw ten teams, each with a minimum of four males and four females, take part. The competition inspired the parents to order kits, organise social activities and train alongside their children.
Abby commented: “After a few of the netball dads started getting more vocal at games, we decided to give them a chance to have a go themselves. The parents were absolutely fantastic and got totally on board.
“We allocated them some courts, bibs and balls in the run up to the tournament to get some training in and, on several occasions, we had parents and kids running on parallel courts. They all loved it and it was great to stand back and watch.”
One who has been captivated with the sport since Wyre Netball Club began encouraging parents to get involved, was Tony Simmons.
Tony is father to Lexie Simmons, 13, and has been getting more and more involved ever since the club actively began inviting parents to come and play.
The local business owner originally volunteered at Wyre Netball Club to support his daughter alongside his son, whom he coaches at a nearby football team.
He said: “I was already involved in coaching my son’s football team and could see the value added by volunteering. As my daughter was involved in netball I wanted to try and give something back for her too.
“Sport is a great life lesson, learning respect and how to handle the highs and lows. I think it’s really important parents get behind their local sports clubs and help and support wherever possible. If we lead by example, hopefully the children will follow. It helps create a family atmosphere within the club.”
Tony’s involvement has now gone far beyond playing and volunteering, as he has now gained his UKCC Level One and Two coaching qualification via England Netball. The 48-year-old has also been attending and shadowing coaches at Lancashire County Academy to increase his knowledge and experience.
He added: “I was recently invited to sit in on the county training sessions, which I did and it wasn’t long before I was being encouraged to help deliver a session. I’ve not experienced that in other sports. I do feel netball has a ‘one big family’ feel to it, which is great.”
Tony is soon to be joined on the coaching front by Mike Smith, a dad of an U11 player at Wyre Netball Club, who has recently been given the news that he will receive funding to complete his level one coaching course as part of an initiative ran by England Netball sponsor, Vitality.
Mike commented: “The club and England Netball’s support has been absolutely impeccable. I’ve been involved with a few sports clubs of various disciplines and can safely say Wyre’s leadership team are the best I’ve ever seen. I’m very much looking forward to getting more involved in coaching with the team.”
Since the parents’ tournament that Wyre Netball Club hosted, a number of parents have joined Back to Netball and Walking Netball sessions in the area.
Michelle Butler, 40, mother to Scarlett, 13, who plays for Wyre Netball Club, was an influential part of organising a mums’ team. The Business Analyst has been leading on getting local mums rallied together for the winter leagues after being out of netball for decades herself.
She said: “My daughter tried to talk me into playing again but I only realised how much fun it was when the parents began to get involved in the parents’ tournament.
“Exercise has many health benefits for both children and parents but I think if you understand the game, can play and are passionate about it yourself, it is really something you can enjoy together. As the club has a strong family ethos, it is always fun at tournaments to make a day of it and catch up with all the other parents or rally together to take the girls to different venues.
“Both parents and children now look forward to getting to netball each week.”