Roses Future Funmi Fadoju believes the future of netball must begin with the grassroots community.
The 19-year-old London Pulse defender, who received her first call up to the Vitality Roses squad ahead of the Vitality Roses Reunited Series against Jamaica, has represented England in junior sides since 2017 and started playing the game back in primary school.
And it is in the heart of the community that she sees the growth of the sport coming from.
Fadoju said: “I see the future of England Netball as a community, as a movement, to increase participation and bring new people into the game.
“In netball you get all different kinds of people together, from different places, different ages. Whether you are healthy or you might not be able to play as you used to be able to, or just starting out, netball is about bringing people together to make friends and have fun.
“That social aspect has an impact on individual lives too – it helps your mental wellbeing to have new friends to talk to, get you away from work or other stresses in your life.”
Fadoju was speaking as she helped launch EN’s new Adventure Strategy – a 10-year plan for the sport to accelerate the development and growth of the game at every level.
She took part in a photoshoot to launch the new strategy, that also reveals a new brand identity, alongside other members of the netball community of all ages – from players to coaches, to volunteers and officials.
And Fadoju added: “I absolutely love the new look and the ambitious plan for our sport for the next decade and beyond.
“I love that we’re rebranding too, making England Netball be more about females coming together to support each other.
“And it is not just about England Netball at the highest level, it is about everyone in the game, helping us and supporting us to get where we are now as Vitality Roses.
“It means a lot that we’re taking that further step forwards and stepping out of what everyone expects us to be as the governing body, and becoming more of a supportive, friendly, fun, creative community. That’s just amazing.
“It was so good to meet members of the Netball Family at the shoot, to hear their experiences, how they are involved with netball, what they’re doing and how it helps them to do something away from work, as a place for them to build a family outside of their actual family.
“Hearing about how girls playing together become friends, helping each other both inside and outside netball and having that connection in life is pretty special and makes our sport what it is.
“Hearing them all talk about their experience is like: ‘wow, this is so much more than I thought it was before.’ It’s not just a competitive thing, not just on court. There’s also a social level to our game, making more connections with other people for life.”
Fadoju also reflected on the first time she played for England, adding: “The first time that I represented my country at Under 17 level and put on the red dress, it was just too much to put into words.
“It was so amazing, it was a new kind of experience to actually have that responsibility on my shoulders and to be able to be go out there and be like ‘I am playing for England, I’m playing for my country’.
“It was both fun and nerve-wracking, but it was worth it.”
Fadoju capped her searing rise by securing her maiden call-up for the Vitality Roses squad ahead of the three-match series against Jamaica.
She added: “I’m really grateful to have been given this amazing opportunity to be a part of the Vitality Roses squad to play against Jamaica.
“I want to go out and have as much fun as possible with the other girls and give it my all on court.
“In our training camps we’ve been learning about each other’s playing style and building up our connections on court. I’m confident that we have what it takes to put out an excellent team performance.
“After all the training and preparation we’ve had as a team, I’m really excited to go out and have the opportunity to play against Jamaica, whether that’s for England A, the development squad or the Vitality Roses team.
“The other girls are really supportive, nice and have made me feel like part of the team.
“I’m just really happy to be here, to learn and develop my game and I’m glad to have got this experience as it will really help me further along in my England netball career.”
It’s not too late to be part of the Vitality Roses Reunited Series with tickets still available for the Nottingham Motorpoint Arena dates here.