We’re recruiting ambassadors from the world of sport and fitness to help spread the word about Hoops Connect. Our newest addition to the squad is England and Severn Stars netball wizard Laura Malcolm, who’s also causing a stir in the sport with her new business, Maias Netball…
Hi Laura, welcome to Hoops Connect!
Can you start off by explaining to our readers how and why you got into netball?
I started playing netball when I was 10/11 years old, but to be honest I just played every sport under the sun. I’ve got two older brothers and my dad is very into sport as well so I just kind of followed in their footsteps and then netball was just the one that took over all the others.
Do you think that’s important, for young people to play as many sports as possible?
Looking at younger netballers now, they’re playing so much netball, and some of them get fed up with it before they even leave school. For me, I didn’t get serious with netball till I was a bit older, doing all the different sports just kept me enjoying it.
You get a better appreciation for sport in general by playing different sports. My dad didn’t play netball when he was younger, but I value his feedback as much as any coach because he just knows sport.
— Clarelou (@clarelou99) October 25, 2017
Definitely, couldn’t agree more. How did netball separate itself from the crowd then?
I just excelled at netball, every time I went to a trial it seemed I was just pushed straight through and before I knew it I was playing for England! I just climbed up the ladder and there was a clear pathway.
Do you think that the grassroots of netball in this country are working?
There’s been a lot of work done, especially with the High Fives, where young players get to have a go at playing in every position.
But there’s always more that can be done, and the more people contribute and help out with the grassroots, the greater the knock-on effect will be at the higher level. There’s always more that can be done!
And that’s where you come in…?
I decided to start Maias Netball because I wanted to do something for myself in the world of netball and take control of my career. And I also wanted to give other people the opportunity to grow their netball skills and knowledge, the same way that I can and have. That’s where it stemmed from really.
Sounds exciting! How’s it going?
It’s actually going really well because I’ve had a whole range of ages showing an interest already, it’s really positive.
When I first started I wasn’t sure whether I’d just have kids who were interested, or just schools. But I’ve actually had a mixture of schools, universities and clubs, from little kids to older netball players.
That’s really encouraging for me because it shows that a lot of people want to take their netball to the next level. And that doesn’t just have to be girls trying to become elite players, it could just be them looking for a different kind of training session, for fresh eyes on a team.
That’s your aim at grassroots level, but I think you want to have an influence on the higher levels too, is that right?
I think Australia and New Zealand are a bit ahead of us in terms of the fact that they’re fully professional over there, and we’re still a little behind that. I’m sure there’s more that can be done and I’d like to contribute towards that.
Being a separate business entity trying to do something for netball is exactly what they have over in Australia, a lot of their top players are creating their own opportunities. That’s exactly what we need to be doing, and to emphasise that people want to play netball because they want to play sport, and not just because they want to socialise with their friends – in every sport you can socialise with your friends.
One of my England coaches, Colette Thompson, once said to me that the beauty of netball is the restrictions in where different positions can go on the court, there is no other team sport like that. You have to play as a team, you can’t have one player who does everything for you.
That is one thing that is really unique about netball. It’s such a great game!
— St Edward's College (@StEdwardsColl) October 13, 2017
Do you think that netball deserves more respect as a sport?
Sport in general in this country isn’t quite there yet in terms of women’s sport.
And the beauty of netball is that only women are playing it in England, so that’s a great opportunity for us to own it as sportswomen and as athletes, and I think we should really take the mantle on that.
In some places women are a lot further ahead than we are here. It’s getting there, there’s been so many successes like the hockey, our rugby and football teams have been doing really well.
It feels to me as though there is a real movement at the minute of women saying “let’s make people take notice of us here because we’re doing the business!”
We need to step up – it’s not women’s sport, it’s sport.
Motivational stuff! What advice would you give to any young girls reading this blog who feel inspired by what you’re saying?
Don’t worry about what you’re wearing when you’re playing sport!
With Instagram and Twitter and all the rest, there’s a real image that goes with playing sport these days – the whole point of sport should be that you don’t worry about what you look like, you just make sure you get that netball before the opposition does.
It’s okay to be competitive, it’s a good thing! You’ve got to just get out and play your sport because you love it, and not worry about your hairstyle.
And Maias can help girls to realise that?
I really want Maias Netball to help everybody demand more from their sport.
It doesn’t have to be about becoming an elite athlete, it’s just about getting what you want out of netball. Whether that be having fun sessions, getting fitter – it could be that you do just want to socialise, but there are different ways to do that.
I just want women to have this attitude of “I love sport, I love netball because it’s a great game, and I want to make sure I get everything I can out of it.”
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