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Am I Really Sporty?

By sports coach UK Development Lead Officer Nicola Beattie

I have recently started playing in a netball fun league. Netball is a sport I only ever played at school making it approximately 16 years since I have played! So I guess you could class me as an adult returner to netball.

When my hockey team decided they wanted to do something different over the summer for fun and fitness, I was not too keen on the thought of netball. Turning up to my first game I was actually pretty terrified. Having not played for so long and going straight into a game I kept thinking ‘but I don’t know the rules’ ‘what if I make myself look really stupid’, ‘I don’t want to let the girls down’. However after 10 minutes on the court I realised the pre-panic was a waste of energy as I was actually really enjoying myself. Another fact to add was I was only actually there that day as one of the other players had dropped out last minute and my friend text asking if I was home from work in time to help. If I had more time to think about it, would I have played at all?

However, the main reason for my blog is to share an experience during one of our recent matches. It turns out as a group of hockey players we are actually ok at netball. We were winning the game in question when my opposing player turned around and said ‘it is not fair you are all really sporty’. The game was played in good spirits and by no means was it a white wash. The comments throughout and after the game from the opposition were really interesting to me. The word sporty was associated with us several times. Comments such as:

‘it is not fair you are really sporty’

‘we didn’t stand a chance because they are so sporty’

‘look they even have their own t-shirts, they are so sporty and good’

I was curious as to how this perception of us a group of netball players could have arisen and spoke to some of the players afterwards. Some of us happened to be wearing our hockey tops and because of that they assumed we were a better team than them. They were also surprised to hear that for the majority of us we were only just returning to netball, for me it was 16 years but for others it over 20 years.

What they failed to see was that they are turning up week in week out and willing to play sport with their team mates. So why would we be any more sporty? Was it just because we have a t-shirt? They were playing netball as often as we play hockey.

As a hockey coach, I got thinking about this from a coaching point of view and thought about all those players who take that brave step through the door, but they could be feeling petrified like I was. Or they could be like the team I faced thinking that they are not sporty enough to do well or even take part. If you have new participants coming to your session what are you doing to make them feel welcome? Is the environment welcoming? I really like this simple set of top tips which helps you welcome new participants. Click here

Depending on what age you coach, sports coach UK have two workshops that could also help you keep these new participants coming back to your sessions:

How to deliver engaging sessions for adults

How to deliver engaging sessions for young people

If you are reading this and thinking about taking your first step back into sport, please don’t be fooled into thinking people are more sporty than you. For the two sports I have mentioned Back to hockey and Back to Netball are an ideal fun, friendly and social starting point.