The Huddle for Volunteers’ Week: “I wanted to give back”

In 1926, England Netball was established by a volunteer called Edith Thompson with 12 leagues and 21 clubs. 

Fast forward to 2024 and an estimated 30,000+ volunteers now work in partnership with England Netball to make netball the best it can be. 

Surges in game participation and membership, record-breaking crowds, the Vitality Roses’ historic accomplishments – because of people like Fiona, and all those around her, netball will continue to grow and enrich lives. 

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Volunteers are the life blood of the Netball Family and whether you commit five minutes or 50 years, collectively it makes a huge difference.

Netball has been and continues to be a life-long love for Fiona. For over 40 years, she’s had a community within which to belong, flourish and soar.  

And although her netball journey hasn’t always been easy, with injuries along the way, her passion to be involved has always remained. 

“I started playing netball at 11 years old at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls and Ducie Netball Club which later became Manchester Flava and Trafford – both of which I played for in later life.  

“I also played at county level under the great Kath Edwards. I did my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at 23, but had it repaired at the age of 30 so I could go back to playing netball. 

“I started volunteering back in 2007 when my daughter started playing netball for Trafford and Cheshire, and issues with my knee and other injuries (snapped my Achilles playing netball) meant I was struggling to play at a competitive level.  

“I knew I wanted to stay involved in the sport I love.” 

Whether you’re playing, coaching, officiating, volunteering or supporting, the emotional and social benefits extend beyond the court. 

The netball experience is, in the truest sense, an adventure that can last a lifetime. 

From one-off to more regular commitments, area specific experts to session facilitators, there are a variety of ways to volunteer – and Fiona has embraced all opportunities that have come her way! 

For Fiona, the netball community is like no other – a movement of over 120,000 members standing on the shoulders of those who came before to protect, grow and champion our game today and for future generations. 

“I love my Netball Family; I get to spend time with netball people I have known since childhood – Kath Edwards, Frances Campbell-Miller, Joan Dunne and others. 

“I umpire at C award level and I’m a technical official for Tameside, Trafford and Manchester Thunder (alongside Kath Edwards!).  

“I’m a member of Cheshire County Netball Association Committee and still play social mixed netball today. 

“I am a Level 1 coach, hoping to do my Level 2 later this year.  

“I volunteered recently to be a NETBALLHer Champion.” 

The industry-leading NETBALLHer initiative, which is England Netball’s approach to creating environments where all women and girls can show up authentically, without apology and truly belong, recently celebrated its first anniversary. 

Proudly leading the way as the first National Governing Body (NGB) to fully embed female health at every level, NETBALLHer has helped to create an important cultural shift within the Netball Family. 

As a NETBALLHer Champion, Fiona is at the heart of this movement advocating for change, driving vital conversations and pushing boundaries to reshape the landscape for women and girls. 

And her motivations for wanting to put her name forward for the volunteer role were clear. 

“There were two things: I wanted to give back to the sport that has given me so much over the last 40 years and as I get older – menopause anyone?   

“It has made me want to support girls and women negotiate the life stages we all go through.  

“It’s important to have open and honest discussions about subjects some people still feel uncomfortable talking about, but which all affect netball players. 

“Periods, returning to netball after childbirth or injury, menopause, mental health challenges, marriage breakdown, supporting your child when they play and long-term health conditions such as osteoarthritis – all of which have affected me during my life and netball has been the one constant throughout. 

“I want to raise awareness of the avenues you can go down as a volunteer once you stop playing competitively to give back to the sport.  

“I am passionate about supporting women and girls in netball, and breaking down stigmas and barriers to make it a truly inclusive environment where you can be your true self whether you’re a Bee Netballer, a Back to Netballer, an England Netball employee, an elite athlete, a Walking Netballer, a coach, a technical official, an umpire or a volunteer.” 

Over the past 12 months, NETBALLHer learnings have been embraced and embedded, including across Greater Manchester and in county pathways. 

To keep raising the bar for women and girls both inside and outside the netball bubble, England Netball has added a number of NETBALLHer informal volunteering actions to The Big Help Out app for the UK’s biggest-ever mass volunteering event (7-9 June). 

Taking just a few minutes to share the NETBALLHer website with five friends or print and put up a poster in your local community centre will help women and girls at every life stage feel educated and empowered to talk about their own bodies and female health in ways which they haven’t previously. 

As Fiona shows, there’s a world of possibilities and opportunities within netball. Whatever your age or motivation(s), there’s a place for you to make a difference and feel the buzz of being involved through volunteering. 

A huge thank you to Fiona and all the amazing people who volunteer and make our sport happen. 

Feeling inspired? Whether you know exactly what you want as a volunteer or are keen to learn more, learning a bit about you will help us signpost you to opportunities we hope you will love! You can also listen to the stories of more volunteers who all volunteer in different ways here.  

Refreshed for 2024, The Huddle promises to do what all good huddles do – bring the whole Netball Family together! We want to champion and celebrate your stories, and the stories of the people who inspire you, so share yours here. 

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