Everyday Heroes: Michelle Cox
Growing up in London, Michelle Cox was a sporty girl. She played cricket until the age of 11, and after being told she wasn’t allowed to play with the boys any more, she looked to alternative sports. After trying both basketball and swimming, she eventually settled on netball, representing her school and county.
‘I’ve always played netball from that point on, right up until 2013,’ Michelle says, ‘Then I came home from a netball match and went to bed. When I woke up, I was paralysed from the waist down.’ So began a year of visits to the hospital while the doctors tried to understand what was wrong with Michelle. ‘When they told me it wasn’t anything terminal, it was a relief because I knew it was something that I could recover from,’ she says. ‘Nobody knows what caused this, and my netball friends became an inspiration – they tried to get me to move because no one else would touch me because the disease was unknown to them.’
It was the community of netball friends that became the driving force behind Michelle’s rehabilitation. She is grateful for the people who have believed in her. Michelle comments that now being a disabled person, she started to wonder how people would view her and what perceptions they would have. ‘I realised that other people don’t see it as a problem, it was me that saw it as a problem,’ she says. ‘My community of friends and family have helped me to rebuild my self-belief.’ There are days when Michelle is still in a lot of pain, but she makes herself move past it and get on and do things.
Her journey to rehabilitation continues. In 2015, she went to Australia as the head coach for the under-23 Nets netball mixed team as she wanted to challenge herself. ‘If I couldn’t play any more, I wanted to be able to use my skills as a coach and still coach netballers,’ she says.
Michelle enjoys seeing young people succeed. ‘It’s the result of the hard work you put in,’ she says. ‘With coaching, you see young people develop, and you see them achieve.’ Although Michelle can’t be the active one any more, she has found other ways of using her coaching skills and experience to show her players how to do things.
Now coaching for Leyton Netball Club, who play in the Premier League, as well as for Essex County and Raiders Netball Club in Kent, Michelle has found that returning to the sport she loves with limited mobility hasn’t stopped her drive and spirit. ‘I stayed away for a long time, and that helped. If I had gone back too soon, I would have been frustrated because I couldn’t have done what I wanted to do.’
The frustration is no longer there for Michelle because she’s still a part of that community that brought her back to the sport.
‘I can still get involved, and one day, I might run again,’ she says, but for now, she has been inspired by England Netball’s ‘walking netball’ initiative. She is already looking to learn how she might find a way into coaching that too.
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