What a summer of sport we’ve had! Being an avid sportswoman it’s been truly inspiring to watch the mega events which have been hosted across the world in the last 3 months, to include the European Football, the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Along with what I imagine was the majority of the country, I made sure I’d cleared my diary for the Wales football games back in June. I watched and supported the boys throughout their campaign and saw them progress through to the semi-finals of the European Championships. They became national heroes and engaged with the nation so brilliantly as they did so.
I was also fortunate enough to watch a fair amount of both the Olympic and the Paralympic Games and was inspired by the performances of so many athletes; Becky James, Jazz Carling, and Aled Davies to name but a few.
There’s an endless list of women who shone during these global events. As Captain of Wales’ netball squad, I could relate to the pressure on their shoulders and the sheer determination they must have felt, too. These athletes work relentlessly to achieve the best and often sacrifice important events or home comforts in order to reach their goals.
As the mega events sadly came to an end, I realised what a statement the female sports stars had made during the competition. The GB women’s Hockey team, who achieved the ultimate reward for their hard work and resilience and becoming Olympic champions, will be a campaign I will never forget.
Their athleticism and team spirit was incredible to watch and as I saw these young women celebrate their well-deserved victory – I felt enormous pride. I felt pride in particular for women’s team sports – and for my chosen sport of netball.
I have met many sceptics that expect a completely different game than what they’re given when they watch netball for the first time. They witness a fast and furious ball game and they’re often quite astounded by the strength of netballers. I am excited about the future of the game as players across the world are offered professional full-time contracts by their clubs. There’s clearly great progress but there’s a long way to go yet until netball achieves football or rugby status.
I went to support Wales’ under 21 netball squad take part in the Netball Europe Youth Championships 2016 this weekend. These young stars came third in the tournament after playing against England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Wales U21 played like pros – an hour’s worth of fast, tough, and skilful netball for each three matches. These young women are perfect advocates for Women in Sport Week. They have worked their way up the netball ladder with hard work and determination, and have earned their Welsh dress. They are fit and healthy and are an exceptional example to young girls. In fact, a huge queue of future netball stars waited excitedly to ask for their autographs after the matches. This is what Women in Sport Week is all about: Inspiring the next generation of sportswomen.
The Olympics, Paralympics and this weekend’s netball event has left me feeling proud and hopeful for the future of women’s sport. It has also made me look forward to the next major event in the Netball calendar, that being the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia 2018. Bring it on.