By Milly Mcevoy, Local Democracy Reporter
Watching her mum play netball inspired Greenwich’s Vanessa Stewart to take up the sport – and since then it has given her lifelong friends and even her job, writes Milly McEvoy.
The 25-year-old grew up watching her mum play netball, and after signing up to play for local side Sabina Netball Club, she has been part of the club as it has progressed through the leagues.
And she is now helping England Netball launch their new ’10-year Adventure Strategy’ for the game, taking part in an exciting photoshoot with other members of the Netball Family community.
Customer experience team leader Ms Stewart has played netball since she was 11 and exemplifies netball’s ‘game for life ethos’, having played with Sabina Netball Club for more than a decade.
She said: “I’ve been playing with them for about 14 years – as soon as I could join the club, I did, and I’ve been with them ever since through school, sixth form, uni.
“I started when I was 11, but I suppose the story started before because I understood the game before knowing how to play, as my mum played netball so she’d always bring me along to games.
“I joined Sabina because I wanted to train and play, so that was all very exciting. They had a junior squad and a senior squad so you always had that development programme.
“There’s quite a few girls there that are of a similar age to me and people that I still know and are good friends with today.”
Wing defence or wing attack, Ms Stewart played briefly in the Kent academy programme and represented Queen Mary University while studying international relations, but always returned to her netball family at Sabina.
She added: “Over the years, the club as a whole has really developed and expanded and so we moved up in divisions.
“In local leagues, as a team, we all improved and then we moved into a county league with the county playoffs, and now we’re in the regional league.
“We’re in a really good position and it’s nice that I’ve been part of that growth with the club because we started off at just local level.
“Then our coach was like: ‘we could actually contend with some of the top teams out there.”
“It is an absolute honour, we have got a family there. I’ve got a family in my netball club and my team and it’s that massive sense of pride that we’ve achieved that, and to know that I’ve been part of that because for every single player, whether or not you’ve played a few games here and there or you’ve been to every single game, it is a collective team effort.”
Ms Stewart has been selected as one of the faces of England Netball, which includes a diverse range of people from Vitality Roses captain Serena Guthrie to walking netballer Gill Copley.
And for the London resident, she only sees the future of the sport getting bigger and brighter.
She said: “It’s really inspiring – it’s definitely ignited a little fire because I work for England Netball,” she added.
“But it’s also really nice to immerse myself in this environment where we’ve been able to hear stories of other people and what they’ve been doing.
“Sometimes you don’t hear all about all of that and it’s just really nice to celebrate these individuals and recognise the impact that they have had and are having in the sport.
“I think the vision for England Netball and netball as a whole is fantastic. I can only see more growth in the game in the future than ever before and that is really exciting.
“It’s really empowering for females across the world, to see the coverage and attention that netball is now getting. We are a really strong contender to the other top sports in the world.”
For more information on England Netball’s new ‘Adventure Strategy’ or to find out how to get involved in netball in your area visit www.EnglandNetball.co.uk
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