Meeting the team at Wendover Sparrowhawks Netball Club
PUBLISHED: 15:37 26 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:45 26 June 2017
Netball is thriving in our county, so Sandra Smith went courtside with Wendover Sparrowhawks to discover more about their goals
Wearing flattering black and gold short dresses, their immaculately groomed hair complemented by just the right amount of make up, Wendover Sparrowhawks Netball Club players chat excitedly before going on court. The women are stylish, polite and courteous. Even so, here in Aylesbury College Sports Hall a match is imminent and winning is, as always, tonight’s goal. These players, you see, don’t confine their energy to outward appearances; everyone is fiercely competitive and, despite this being only the club’s second year in Aylesbury and District Netball League, a determination to succeed is as palpable as the camaraderie which pervades the 15 strong squad.
“My boyfriend is Chairman of Wendover FC, which is over 100 years old,” Lucy Adler, who founded Sparrowhawks, explains. “Like them, we want to not only play but be part of a community. Their kit is black and gold so we chose the same. The arrival of our dresses was a big moment, giving everyone a sense of belonging.”
We’re interrupted by the arrival of an umpire who checks players’ nails (mustn’t be longer than fingertips) and ensures all jewellery has been removed. Then the teams are ushered onto court and the first of four 12 minute quarters begins.
As Goal Attack, Lucy soon scores. Their lead builds as Sparrowhawks’ impressive cross court passing and accurate shooting enables them to dominate. Encouragement from substitutes on the bench is vocal and enthusiastic as the team notches up another win.
“When we first started we thought we’d get thrashed, so were thrilled with draws,” admits Lucy afterwards as everyone quietly celebrates. “But tonight’s team beat us earlier in the season so we’re really pleased.”
The history of netball may trace its origins to the late 19th century but this club dates back a mere three years when Lucy first moved to Wendover. Having played at school and university, disappointment at not finding a local team prompted her to set about establishing one. Advertising quickly drew in a healthy response and before long the team was training on John Colet School’s outdoor courts. A lack of floodlights took them indoors to the gym that first winter. Although a netball court was marked out, however, the girls had to “make do” with basketball hoops until the school provided netball posts. These days training takes place on outdoor, floodlit courts in Aston Clinton. This is where, a few days later, I meet Mel Krzeminski, the Club’s Captain.
“I’m currently pregnant so can’t play, but as a toddler I sat on the sidelines watching my mum who played and then managed a team. We like to give everyone in the squad a chance although we’re looking for fitness and ability.”
During a timed warm up qualified coach Molly Wilkinson, a Division 1 player, talks me through a typical session: “We begin with 15-20 minutes of fitness, a key aspect to winning netball matches. So it is important that all players work on this. The middle part is skills and tactics-based, then finally we play a match.”
Molly also recognises the wider attractions of joining the club: “What stands out the most to me about Wendover Sparrowhawks is that they don’t just train once a week and play matches. They have all formed friendships which would not have been there had they not joined this club. It is important to them that everyone is involved and valued no matter what their standard, and this really shines through in every training session and every match.”
Mel shares her praises for The Lionel Abel-Smith Trust which funded the first year’s coaching costs and players’ affiliation to England Netball. Other sponsorship was similarly invaluable. Local companies such as two-man organisation, Wendover Wood, prompted the purchase of kit and payment for a coach.
As the structure of the team continues to grow they now boast three qualified umpires and have recently established a junior club which meets each Saturday morning to coach 14-16 year olds who, it is hoped, will eventually feed into the adult team.
Meanwhile the club is always on the lookout for more players who are entitled to a free first session. A certain amount of versatility between attack, defence or mid core is accommodated with one of the most valuable assets of any team member being commitment.
When Lucy joins us at the end of the evening’s session she is gently adamant about the ethos behind Sparrowhawks. “I want the club to be open for anyone to join, though turning up for training is important. Sometimes teams are serious about winning leagues and this can be quite off-putting. Here there’s still a place for you if you don’t want to play competitively.”
With training session over, some players head for home, others to a nearby restaurant.
Lucy says: “We have a Social Secretary and have been on trips to watch England play. And at our annual end of season Awards Night everyone who has played is given a medal and we have speeches and trophies for Players’ Player and Captain’s Player. Our other halves come along as well.”
Another regular aspect of the club calendar is a Family Fun Day which they are hosting on Saturday, 17 June. At this fundraising event teams (mixed teams with a maximum of three men per team are encouraged) and spectators are welcome. On the John Colet campus there’ll also be a barbecue and bar with proceeds from a raffle donated to a local charity.
Wendover Sparrowhawks’ bond revolves around a love of netball so if you share or want to rekindle that passion why not join them, or find a club near you?
Get on the court
• The sport is a great way to keep fit and there are numerous thriving teams in Bucks, including those keen to welcome new players. Some are highly competitive, others put the social and fun side as a high priority; most are a mix of both. Many also run walking netball teams, suitable for those who feel they left the court many years ago. Played at a slower pace, it is ideal for anyone who left through injury or age.
• Wendover Sparrowhawks train on Thursday evenings from 6.30pm at Aston Clinton Tennis Courts. wendovernetballclub.co.uk
• Bucks Phoenix Netball Club, based in High Wycombe, have a number of senior and junior teams. New players are encouraged to make contact through bucksphoenixnc.co.uk
• Flames Netball Club began 14 years ago and train at Aylesbury High School on Wednesday evenings with mums and daughters amongst their players. flamesnc.co.uk
• Marlow Kites Netball Club was formed last year following the merger of Wycombe Kites and Marlow Netball Clubs. Teams train at either Great Marlow School or Kingsmead Netball Centre. marlowkites.co.uk