Tracey Neville is from a sporting family; until recently, it was her brother Gary and twin brother Philip who had taken the limelight.
Tracey started playing netball as a small girl and played competitively until a knee injury forced her to quit. She studied sports science at university and was appointed manager of the national netball team in 2015.
England’s previous results record was a series of fourth positions, littered with a few bronze medals. Whilst these were impressive stats, Tracey was determined to take the team to the next level and had her eye on gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Having made the semi-final, the team faced an established, well-organised and strong Jamaican team. Tracey felt that perhaps the English team had gone as far as they could when they found themselves six goals down in the first half; however, an inspirational team talk at half-time saw them take the win 56-55 and reach their first ever final on the world stage. Just 12 hours later, England snatched victory from the Commonwealth Games favourites, Australia. England scored in the final moments of the game to make the score 52-51 and seal the team’s place in history.
Netball is played up and down the country by schoolchildren and is one of the most popular female sports. Teachers who want to inspire their students to follow in the footsteps of the national team can access netball training drill videos from resources such as https://www.sportplan.net/drills/Netball/drills.jsp. The benefit of sport and especially team sport is well documented, with information available on the NHS website.
With new enthusiasm for the game spreading nationwide as the result of the team’s success, Tracey is planning to capitalise on the support and is already making plans for the 2019 World Cup; however, funding cuts are taking much-needed resources out of the sport, which is frustrating after the team’s recent achievements.
Whether playing competitively, for exercise or just for fun, there are hundreds of ways in which netball can be played and enjoyed. Team sport builds self-esteem and confidence and has obvious health benefits. Coaches inspired by Tracey’s success can see that hard work and belief are key to encouraging players at any level to be the best they can.