The importance of Young Female Role Models

Posted November 23, 2022 by Poppy O'Reilly

Each week we bring you a good news story from across the South West as part of our WedNEWSday articles.

In today’s WedNEWSday we hear how netball can influence your life and take you in a new direction or to new places. Sian Kelly and Alice Clark, two young role models from the South West Region, took some time out from delivering at a recent Netball Youth Camp (NYC) to talk about their own, very different netball journeys. The 27 girls aged 11-14 years who attended the camp had the opportunity to ask questions in an informal setting and to be inspired by what they heard. Sian and Alice are only 18 and 16 years respectively and they started their journeys at the same age as the girls in the camp. By telling their stories and encouraging interaction with girls near their own age, Sian and Alice are helping make female sporting role models more accessible which is key to engaging and keeping girls in sport.

Sian started playing netball through Honiton Netball Club and quickly found herself helping out at training nights, tournaments and league fixtures. Sian soon realised that she would like to be more involved in coaching and such was her passion that she decided to see if she could make it her career. In an unconventional move, this involved leaving her college course, taking her level 1 coaching qualification and finding as many coaching volunteering opportunities as possible so that she was able to take her level 2 coaching qualification as soon as she was old enough at 18 years old. On route to becoming a qualified coach, Sian clocked up an impressive 400 hours volunteering in netball which was recognised at the recent England Netball National ONE Awards. Her persistence paid off and just 2 days after her 18th birthday, Sian started her level 2 Coaching qualification and 4 months later she became qualified and able to lead her own sessions. Now there is no stopping her! As well as coaching development squads for the last 2 seasons, Sian coached Honiton Netball Club’s first ever U16 SW Regional squad in 2021/22 and she is leading their performance squad again in the current season. One of her voluntary stints with the U13 County Academy for Devon East in 2021/22 supported her selection for the joint lead coach at the same academy for 2022/23. Sian also regularly delivers Netball Youth Camps for England Netball across the South West and she is now building up a portfolio of paid coaching positions with ambitions for more in the future.

Here are some of the questions that Sian was asked by the NYC participants:

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start coaching?

If you are interested in coaching then there are loads of online resources that you can look at and your local netball club may be able to give you some volunteering opportunities. Lots of young people get into coaching through Sport Leader programmes or Duke of Edinburgh and most clubs support these. You do have to be proactive in sessions and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be prepared to give up lots of your own time and be flexible about what you are prepared to do.

Are you a volunteer coach or do you get paid?

I started off volunteering but I am now have several paid roles. I volunteered initially as I liked being involved in netball off the court as well as on the court. Volunteering is a great way to get your face known and it opens up other opportunities. It can also help with funding qualifications as if an organisation knows that you have given a lot of your own time to a club or a league then they are more likely to support a funding application to help with the cost of qualifications.

What is the coaching achievement or moment that you are most proud of?

I am most proud of my U16 performance team and their achievements in the SW regional league. The Devon East places in the regional league are always fiercely contested and Honiton had not qualified before. I was on a steep learning curve and I was also taking my level 2 qualification in parallel. With the support of my club coaches we held our own in the league and it was a great feeling to know that I had helped get them there.

Alice introduced herself to netball in school year 3, gate crashing the year 5/6 after school netball club which was coached by her Mum. She followed her older sisters into Axe Vale Netball Club and SW junior regional netball but was not successful in getting into the U13 County Academy, two years in a row. Despite this set back, her coach decided to add her to the list of girls trialling for the Severn Stars pathway and she gained a place aged 12 years old. The following year she moved to the Team Bath pathway but COVID cut the season short at a time when she was making great progress. Determined not to lose her netball skills over lockdown, she led weekly S&C and netball skill sessions for her regional team on Zoom and 1-2-1 sessions in empty carparks around Dorset!  With the help of Exeter Netball Club she quickly got netball fit again once restrictions were lifted and she went on to join the U17 Team Bath squad and also represented Team Bath U15s at the School Games in 2021. Last year Alice juggled GCSEs, travelling to Team Bath U19 NPL training with matches as far away as Durham, as well as Exeter Netball Club training and Regional 1 matches across the South West. Living in West Dorset is lovely but it is a long way from senior performance netball opportunities so Alice and her family made the decision for her to weekly board at Hartpury College 6th form and also gain access to their Netball Academy. The amount of travel has now significantly decreased as she plays for nearby Hucclecote Netball Club and the journey to Team Bath U19 NPL training is much less. Moving school and home to follow your netball dream is a big step for someone so young!

Here are some of the questions that Alice was asked by the NYC participants:

How did COVID and the lockdowns effect your netball?

Not going to school was a real bonus and as I live by the sea and the weather was great, it was not all bad! I do so much netball that not being able to train and play matches was really strange. I was able to set up different drills at home as we have a post and lots of equipment and I have 2 older sisters that also play netball and my Mum plays too. I even got my dad involved to help challenge me on overhead passes on rebounds as he is 6 foot 2. The lockdown from January 2021 to March 2021 was the hardest as my sisters were fed up with doing netball drills and it was cold and wet outside. As we were allowed to meet up with one other person, I used to meet 2 of my netball friends on different days each week and I would carry rebounders, posts, hurdles, and spots to an empty car park and set up drills. Looking back it seems pretty crazy but it really helped with keeping my netball skills alive.

What is the biggest netball challenge that you have faced?

I was invited to trial for the U17 Roses Academy this year and I joined their first weekend camp in September. It was a great experience but really challenging as most of the girls had already secured their place in the programme. I was not feeling 100% but I think the pressure got to me a bit too. It was a real confidence boost to be asked to attend and whilst I was not successful this time, I hope I get another opportunity.

Have you met many Netball Super League (NSL) players?

With both Exeter and Hucclecote netball clubs, the Regional 1 squad trains alongside the Prem squad and in both of these clubs there are international players and NSL players. Hartpury Netball Academy also have current NSL players as part of their coaching team. Taking part in training match play against NSL players and being in a defensive pair with a NSL player was a bit overwhelming at first but now it is just something I do every week.

Feeling inspired to volunteer? Find out more about getting started here:

Netball South West are looking for a new Volunteer Lead – could this be you?

Are you passionate about empowering volunteers? Then this role could be for you. We are looking to recruit a Volunteer Lead who will be the main point of contact for volunteers and volunteering within Netball South West.

If you are interested in this roles please email: for more information, role description and application form.

If you have a good news story that you would like to share please send your story and a picture to the South West Regional Officer ( Something exciting happening where you are? Don’t forgot to use #Netballsw.

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