As a not-for-profit sport our members are the fabric of our game, our DNA, our heritage and our future.
This past year we have seen just how powerful the collective efforts of our members can be with 90,000 of you continuing to invest in our game, despite the impact COVID-19 had on the season, directly contributing to helping our sport survive financially.
But being an England Netball member is more than just a passport to play – it is about being a part of something bigger, helping to protect, grow, nurture and champion our game today and for years to come.
To celebrate this, we wanted to shine a light on a variety of our members over the coming weeks and months.
This time, we spoke to young coach and umpire Leah Nolan:
It is often said that the young volunteers of today are the future leaders of tomorrow.
Fortunately, netball has never been sparse of ambitious, young and inspiring leaders who frequently give up their time to better themselves and the sport.
This was recently recognised by England Netball who want to ensure that by 2025 young volunteers are at the heart of designing new programmes and forms of recognition for their peers.
Youthful coaches, players or umpires are spread across the country helping others engage with netball both on the court and off it. Some, like Leah Nolan, start at the age of just 14.
A Sport Science student at Edgehill University in Lancashire, Leah is just 19 but became interested in coaching and officiating more than half a decade ago.
“I started playing in primary school as part of the curriculum and then joined a club a bit later. It all just carried on from there,” she said.
“I got involved in coaching, umpiring when I was 14. I did my bronze DofE and you had to do an hour of volunteering every week for a few months. I picked netball and just fell in love with it.
“I was put in with a group that had never played netball and it was amazing to see them pick it up so fast. From really struggling to their first league matches, it was really rewarding to see their progression.”
Her love for coaching and volunteering soared rapidly. In fact, Leah signed up to an England Netball Level One coaching course as soon as she could. The teenager was able to sign up with ease due to her England Netball membership.
Since then, she hasn’t looked back. After getting her qualification Leah has been involved in England Netball’s Pass On Your Passion (POYP) scheme, volunteering at Ormskirk Netball Club since moving to university.
POYP aims to recognise the countless number of Young Volunteers (12-25) in netball by providing them with opportunities, ideas and rewards to help them on their leadership and volunteering journey.
“Somebody heard about what I was doing in netball and told me about Pass On Your Passion. I looked into it and thought that it would be really up my alley,” she said.
“It’s really simple to do. You go online and add your hours after every coaching session. You submit them once you hit certain hours and it’s really nice to get rewarded for things that often go unnoticed.
“I’ve logged just over 400 hours now in the time frame. It’s a really cool thing to be involved in and I’d recommend it to anybody.”
Leah was rightfully recognised for her POYP efforts at her local Goalden Globes in 2020, winning a Young Netball Volunteer Award.
Since then, Leah has only been more motivated to continue on a netballing journey which she hopes will lead to coaching at a performance level.
To achieve her lofty ambitions, the student completed her Level Two qualification this August and has been in the midst of her umpire C Award Course before COVID struck.
“I did my Level One when I was 16 because it was an obvious step for me. That opened a lot of doors for me and, when Level Two came up in the Midlands, I knew I wanted to do it especially because my club were looking for a Level Two Coach anyway.
“I learnt a lot. You really learn about how different people and athletes work or learn differently to others. Some are more visual, some just prefer to go and do it, some like it explained.
“You need to cater to the needs of your athletes, rather than doing what you think is best for them sometimes.”
“I’ve done a lot of club coaching and want to step up to county level. I feel like I’m on my way to performance netball and start opening doors to that really competitive world of high-quality netball.”
— Kerrie Jones (@netballwoman) November 13, 2020
Now, Leah has been given the chance to get involved with coaching in the County Pathway with Staffordshire having been part of the same pathway as a player and has been involved with the trials process.
She says the more experienced people she is working with in the set-up are having a profound effect on her as she looks to absorb their wisdom as they look to develop her abilities further.
With their support and that of coaches at other clubs, Leah is managing to balance her netball commitments with her studies. In fact, she credits her ability to do so because of her membership experiences.
“It’s opened a lot of doors for me like the Staffordshire County Pathway. I could only do that because of the qualifications I had got through my England Netball membership,” she said.
“The coaching and umpiring qualifications are a huge part of the England Netball membership and I’m glad I have made use of them. You also get workshops as a member for coaching or umpiring.
“These skills are really transferable like time management and organisation. You also have to be really resilient when getting into coaching, so my membership has been really helpful in other areas of my life.”
Leah has already been involved in coaching for several years but could be out on the netball sidelines for decades to come. Young volunteers like her are set to enjoy a bright future as the sport begins to flourish.
“It’s going to be so exciting. It’s the first proper season back with no COVID restrictions which is great. Although we’ve been in a pandemic, I’ve seen participation levels increase at the clubs I’ve been at.” she said.
“Some of the girls I know did dance which couldn’t run during that period and started playing to get some exercise and have a laugh. They’re still doing it now and are really enjoying it, developing as well.”
If you want to get involved in coaching, umpiring, volunteering and Pass On Your Passion then click here.
The year ahead for netball in this country is unparalleled. It is a critical year to return our sport. This is our time to build back stronger, to grow our sport, to strive for more.
This is our time to inspire more women and girls to take to the courts than ever before, to set ourselves apart from other sports, celebrating what makes us unique, filling our courts across the country with joy once again.
This is our time to play with hope, and happiness, to grow and set bold new goals for ourselves and our sport.