Sophie Drakeford-Lewis, at the age of just 21, is just at the beginning of her professional netball career but has already achieved so much.
Already an international with the Vitality Roses, having made a handful of appearances for the senior side, she has also forged her reputation with Team Bath in the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL).
“I loved the team environment”
Drakeford-Lewis burst onto the scene as a teenager after being a standout player for her country at youth level and in the Vitality Netball Superleague.
However, growing up, the current Vitality Superleague Young Player of the Year excelled on a different type of court.
“When I was younger, I was playing tennis at quite a high level. Tennis is obviously a big individual sport and when I played netball, I really loved being part of the team environment. It was such a change but it was a lot more relaxed with the team.”
Like many, Drakeford-Lewis was first introduced to netball at primary school and it was there where her love for netball began.
“It all began when I was seven. I think my biggest influence when I started out was my schoolteacher, Miss Ore, who suggested starting out at my local club. I joined Woodley Netball Club and I think this really got me playing netball at a higher standard. Since then, I haven’t really stopped.
“I definitely don’t think I’d be where I am today without her advice to start at a netball club.”
The youngster has cemented herself as one of the country’s most talented goal attacks, which has led her to be included In the Vitality Roses programme this year.
“When I was growing up, goal attack was my main position,” she said.
“I just loved shooting and attacking play when I was younger. That’s why I’ve always ended up being at goal attack.”
“They’ve made me the player I am today”
Drakeford-Lewis started her VNSL career at Saracens Mavericks, scoring 284 goals and being nominated for Young Player of the Season.
The youngster then moved to Team Bath for the 2018 season, where she has excelled throughout the league while combining netball with an Integrated Mechanical & Electrical Engineering degree.
Drakeford-Lewis credits her coaches at both teams in helping her improve as a player.
“I’ve had such a great experience with both of my Superleague teams [Saracens Mavericks and Team Bath]. The coaches have had a lot of faith in me and have enabled me to grow and develop as a player.
“The training that I’ve been given by them has been amazing. They’ve made me the player I am today so I can’t really thank them enough.”
Growing up, her idols included a former Vitality Rose and Team Bath player, Pam Cookey.
“I definitely think my role medal was Pam Cookey. I used to visit my brother who went to school down in Bath and sometimes I would see a Vitality Netball Superleague game down there. At the time, Cookey was playing at goal attack for Team Bath.
“It really inspired me to want to go out there and play. Now I’m actually down in Bath playing goal attack for Team Bath, so that’s pretty cool.”
“My aim is to gain as much experience as possible”
After a busy 2019, firing Team Bath into third place in the VNSL and breaking through into the senior Vitality Roses squad, Drakeford-Lewis has no desire to slow down.
The young star was awarded the TASS Most Committed Award which encapsulates the growth she has seen throughout the last couple of years.
“My aims are just to gain as much experience as I possibly can from all the opportunities there are from being in the Roses programme.
“I’ve represented England from U17s, but this is my first year in the Vitality Roses Programme. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to develop as a player, training against the best athletes in the country and also playing against other sides. It’s great for developing my game further.”
By Bethan Clargo.