We’ve come a long way in a short time, and as a netball player, I’ve seen first-hand how women’s sport has grown over the years.
Take England’s Commonwealth gold medal as an example. That made front-page news in national newspapers. Usually we’d just be fighting for a small segment on the back, but even thousands of miles away in Australia the girls captured the nation’s attention!
I’ve always loved sport. When I was younger I would do gymnastics, athletics and all sorts. It wasn’t until secondary school that I started playing netball, and my teacher was so supportive. She really made me feel like I could take it to the next level.
Back then, the game was in such a different place. Netball wasn’t shown on TV, and as aspiring netballers we didn’t really have any role models to look up to. The sport wasn’t visible in the way that it is today, and I didn’t think I would ever in my position as a full-time netballer. To live, breathe, and compete at the sport I love as a professional is fantastic.
Attendances have grown massively too. When I first started, we hardly had any crowds at all. Now we get thousands of people turning out at big arenas on a regular basis. Now young girls and boys can look up to athletes and say “I can do that too”.
The platform is there, and now our goal is to keep driving it forward, and keep bringing women’s sport into mainstream conversations.
That’s why the #ShowUp campaign is so important. It’s all about welcoming new faces into the fold of women’s sport, whether it’s attending matches, watching on TV or trying a new sport for the first time. Sky Sports and the Women’s Sport Trust have done a brilliant job with this initiative, and this summer Sky are making 5,000 free tickets available through the MySky app which is a great opportunity to get more people involved.
We can see it happening already. When we’re playing in the Superleague we see such a great variety of people who come and support us. You get club players, kids on school trips, mums and dads with their children. It’s not just locals either - when you have a match in London, you will get people from Birmingham and Manchester coming down to make a weekend of it, just like football fans would do – and then of course we have been able to grow our fan base for those who can’t get down to the game, with more people watching netball on Sky than ever before. The commitment of the fans is brilliant, and growing all the time.
As for myself, I’m really looking forward to watching some new sports this summer. As netballers, we are always very engrossed in our own training and matches so, when the season is over, it will be great to get out and see something new like cricket, tennis or hockey, and support the girls there. It’s the Women’s Hockey World Cup in London this summer so that will be the perfect opportunity. That is my challenge to myself!
And, of course, I have to mention netball! The Superleague is on every single week on Sky Sports, and there are international series coming up, which is really exciting especially off the back of that Commonwealth gold medal. If you’ve never seen it played before, now is the perfect chance for you to #ShowUp!