Shrewsbury School

Giles Bell's Team of the Week

Thursday 25 January 2018

This week, Netball.

While I imagine that netball has always been played at Shrewsbury (Charles Darwin was a very good netter; just ask the butterflies he caught), I think it would be safe to say that recently the standard and prominence of Netball has dramatically increased.

Speaking to Karen Hall, the 1st team coach at Shrewsbury, I couldn’t help but hear the elation in her voice as she reminisced about how much the team has been improving this year. “We are doing so well this year,” she told me with tears in her eyes.

Emma Kelly, who is something of an expert on netball, told me that she also found it hard to talk about the improvement in Shrewsbury without getting emotional. “I care deeply about netball,” Emma told me.

Emma has worked hard with girls like Sophie Cormack, Clemmie Baynes and Sophia Price. “They can catch now and look how happy that has made them,” Emma told me. She went on to say that Sophia, like Emma herself, has worked so hard that she has become shorter through dedicated running around the court, which has worn her legs down.

“I used to be much taller, but I saw the commitment that Mrs Kelly has to the sport and I realised that losing height is not really a problem unless you want to stand out in a crowd,” Sophia told me.

Sophia is very proud of the fact that the 2nd team are currently unbeaten, having won all five of their matches this term. “We have scored 139 points and only conceded 33, which makes me feel very proud,” she said.

The 3rd team is also unbeaten and Clemmie and Sophie are also very happy at present. “I am never happier than when I am playing netball at Shrewsbury, apart from possibly having a profoundly life-changing and seriously academic chat with my very wise tutor,” they both said at the same time. As their tutor, I like to feel I have had some input in Sophie and Clemmy’s netball career – especially as it is a sport that has never featured at the Olympics but is on the rise across England, with record numbers of participants playing the game.

“Netball is thriving, a lot of girls live and breathe netball," says England Netball development officer Pauline Knight. There was a 44% increase in participation at grassroots level in the last year, with nearly 30,000 players pounding the courts across England – and a good number of those are at Shrewsbury School. (I don’t advise trying to ‘breathe’ a netball at home unless an adult is present.)

I am looking forward to watching the World Cup in Liverpool in 2019 and I even know the rules. Just in case you don’t:

Netball in a nutshell:

  • There are seven players who each have their own position and can only move in certain areas of the court.
  • Only two players - the goal shooter and the goal attack - can score and they must be inside the goal semi-circle.
  • A match is split into four quarters of 15 minutes.
  • Players are not allowed to run when they are in possession of the ball.

I caught up with Shrewsbury School Captain of Netball Amy Pook, who plays in the Shrewsbury Netball League with Coach Karen Hall on Monday nights. Amy feels very honoured to play in the same team as Karen and I imagined she enjoyed learning from playing with and watching a seasoned professional. “I have learned a lot from watching Karen,” Amy told me. “I know she leaves the house at 8 o’clock every morning and...” I had to stop Amy at that point.

Amy went on to pay tribute to the younger members of the team. “Amelie Davies and Poppy Collingwood-Cameron have had their shooting hands on and it’s very helpful when the goal shooters score. Mary Lees has clearly been watching her dogs, as she seems to have as much energy as a Jack Russell.”

Amy also paid tribute to the rest of the team, including the senior pros Veronica ‘I can throw the ball’ Parr and Molly Stokes. “Ronny and Molly are both amazing players and just live and breathe netball but only with an adult present,” said Amy.

Then there is the Lower Sixth gang of Lizzie Ware, Katie Oswald, Jetty Russell and new signing Kitty Taylor. “Kitty has settled in well. She is known as ‘the Seamstress’ because she has the opposition sewn up, and all opponents are very Wary of Lizzie. I can’t think of any more poor quality nicknames I’m afraid,” Amy confessed.

The junior teams are also pleasing their coaches. The Under-15A team and the Under-14A teams are both unbeaten and their respective B teams have only been beaten by narrow margins. Miss Turbill is pleased with the Under-14s’ start to their netballing careers at Shrewsbury and Miss Katie Marriott is very pleased with her Under-15 charges. “It’s all very pleasing,” they both told me.

Despite the fact that the games are played behind a wire mesh fence, the Netball girls are not as violent as their surroundings might suggest. “We are actually quite nice,” Coralie Williams told me. “I am not violent,” Maddie Cracknell admitted. Catrin Heath confessed she really looks forward to netball and Daisy David says it’s the highlight of her day after PE lessons.

Ella Windle regularly seeks out one-to-one coaching with Miss Kelly as she is determined to improve her all round game. “I live and breathe netball,” she told me. It would seem the netball bug is catching! But what a healthy, popular and successful bug it is at Shrewsbury!


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