Gill Strickland, Women's Institute Walking Netball Ambassador

Meet Gill, a Walking Netball ambassador, sharing her passion through Walking Netball.

Gill Strickland is a Women’s Institute (WI) Walking Netball ambassador who, after rediscovering her love for netball, is helping to promote the game wider to more people across the country.

“I enjoyed playing netball at school and carried this on as I trained to become an accountant, setting up social matches with other firms,” Gill began to explain.

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Taking a long time away from playing the sport, Gill supported her daughter from the sidelines and took trips with her to watch the Vitality Roses and the Vitality Netball Superleague. It was here where she found a new version of the game that appealed to her.

“I was with my daughter watching the Superleague in Birmingham and during the interval, I saw Walking Netball. I said to my daughter ‘that’s my chance to get back into netball’.

“I started when the pilot [between the Women’s Institute and England Netball] was launched, and we had a coach named Ruth Pickthorn. We then had another coach come in before we decided as a group, we needed to train our own host and so we [Gill and a couple of other members] gradually started picking it up.”

England Netball have been working with the National Federation of Women’s Institutes since 2018 to empower members of the WI to engage in social sporting activity through the Walking Netball programme. In this time, the partnership has helped over 3,000 WI members to get active, build friendships and connections, and support the physical and mental wellbeing being of members.

Gill commented: “As you get older, there are less opportunities to do things as a team and I quite enjoy that side of it.

“The fact you’re working with other like-minded people to achieve an objective is good fun and I like meeting new people. That was one of the big things but I also enjoy the feeling of scoring goals!”

By becoming a host for her group, Gill got involved with her WI committee coordinator and a couple of other members with organising their sessions. They began by checking on the venue, sorting registrations and planning out the structure – this included setting up skills sessions and lighthearted warm-ups and cool downs.

“We try and make the sessions fun and sometimes we’ll play some silly games to get us going.

“One week we were stretching our arms out and I said ‘OK, put your left arm in, and now your left arm out.’ It took a while before the group clocked; I was getting them to do the hokey cokey!”

Through the Walking Netball programme, participants learn to play the game at a walking pace and amongst the fun and laughter, they retain physical skills often learnt from playing netball at a younger age such as balance, coordination and core-strength.

In 2021, Gill was named as one of nine ambassadors for the WI Walking Netball project, a role that would see her become an integral part of the WI’s efforts to develop a network of Walking Netball hosts and inspire more members of the WI to get involved.

She hopes through this role she can help inspire more people to come forward to be hosts of Walking Netball groups in Nottinghamshire and set up a series of friendly fixtures between teams who wish to stay competitive.

Gill Strickland and her Walking Netball group

“I would like to see a lot more groups established in Nottinghamshire. At the moment, it’s only us and a group in Ollerton so it would be great if we could see other WIs with their own groups and teams, play games between them and have more regular festivals.

“I’m proud to be part of the group I’m with. When we played in the WI Walking Netball festival, we came second and we took great pride in that but for me, it was the enjoyment we took from the day and the camaraderie between us that made it extra special.”

Away from Walking Netball, Gill continues to share her love of the sport through her daughter who she has regular chats with about it through their experiences.

“My daughter has really enjoyed me getting into it. We often have conversations about it. She’s got an injury at the moment and can’t play but she enjoys advising me on what drills I can do each week and will often give me ideas for my group.

“I keep saying to her when she comes back from her injury, she’ll have to join us at Walking Netball!”

If you’re interested in finding out more and having a go at Walking Netball, click here.

Whether you are just starting out, play regularly or want to return to the game there’s a type of netball to suit your background and ability. Here’s a whole host of different ways that you can master your skills and have fun out on court.

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