Back to Netball – after 30 years. (Part 5)

So here it is, a little late, I know, but I’ve been covering the Women’s Cricket World Cup for Women’s Sports UK and haven’t had a minute!

The World Cup group games have now finished and the semi-finals start tomorrow, so this is my fleeting window of opportunity to tell you about our latest fab session of netball.

Low numbers this week so, in effect, we had to work twice as hard! Prepare yourselves for some pretty out-there diagrams as I try to describe what we did.

Warm-ups as usual and then running round the court bouncing the ball basketball style I must admit I found this quite difficult – I can run or I can bounce, but I can’t do both at the same time. I’m ok on passing while running which we do as part of the warm-up, but bouncing not so much.

Anyway, I was quite relieved when this finished and we were on to the “proper” drills.

I love the way Val builds up a drill. So, first you only have to remember one component, then she adds in another and another until by the end your mind is awash with things to remember and you’re concentrating so hard you feel you might explode.

I know women are supposed to be good at multitasking, and generally I am, but doing this I did find I kept missing one or other of the components. It didn’t help that couldn’t remember which way I was supposed to me running! Let me show you what I mean:


Classic. A diagram like so much spaghetti. See what I mean now?

Actually we started by running with the ball rather than passing it straight away – an alien concept in netball which felt really weird to do.

Drill 2: Same running to catch the ball but standing still and passing and remembering to turn your hips to face the person you’re passing to.

Drill 3: same + hips + jump to catch the ball – so footwork again, knowing which foot you’ve landed on and turning to face the person, and passing.

Drill 4: Same + hips + jump + step forward on correct foot and push the ball out in a pass.

And finally, my nemesis

Drill 5: same + hips + jump + step forward + (and this is the killer) when you run you have to stick your hand out to signal where you want the ball, as if you’re hailing a taxi. Several times I reached my catching point, but no ball was forthcoming as I had not signalled for the ball and we were under orders not to pass until we had received the signal.

Wow! Just ever so slightly bushed after all that, but we all got it right in the end.

Next we went on to some team of two work:


Good fun this, except for the fact that I’m allergic to shooting (I may have mentioned this already). So on reaching the end I passed to my partner, Ruth. Unfortunately she passed it back to me. First pair to five wins. Four-all and it’s our go to see if we can take the game. Now Ruth is a much better shooter than I am but it’s my turn to shoot when we get down the end. I would like to pass it to her, but I’m told by Val that I have to shoot. I immediately apologise to Ruth as I know I’m going to miss. And what happens???

I miss, that’s what.

The game is lost and it’s my fault. Ruth is unperturbed but my competitive streak causes me grief. I try to swallow the hurt the best I can and move on…..

Warm down and time for a group chat.

Val is pleased with the progress we’ve made over the last weeks, but the next session is due to be the last of the programme. Boo.

So what happens next? At the time of writing I’m not sure. We discuss it and agree that we’d like to carry on. We wouldn’t have a coach, but Val would leave us copies of the drills and we could carry on on our own. Val brought the equipment – balls and bibs – with her, so that would be another consideration, as would the hire of the hall.

We’d love to keep going, but you’ll have to wait until the next instalment to find out what is decided!!

Obviously, if we are going to carry on we would like to invite new members. If you are in the vicinity – Market Harborough, Fleckney, surrounding villages, dare I say it – over the Northants border – and you’d be interested in playing, please get in touch. We’re a friendly bunch. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do love a good game. You can contact me through this blog. At the moment we meet on Fridays 6.30-7.30pm at Fleckney Sports Centre.

More cricket as the group stages come to a close

cricket-ballWhat a day Wednesday 30 March will be as England’s women take on Australia in the first semi-final of the women’s tournament and England’s men follow on the same pitch later in the day as they face New Zealand in their semi.  It’s either going to be an excellent day, or a horrible, horrible, one…..

More updates and match reports from the Women’s World T20

Sorry if cricket isn’t your cup of tea (I urge you to try it , though).  I will be back with the sports column and the netball in due course so bear with me!

Of course, I feel I should be writing about tennis today after the disgraceful goings-on at the Indian Wells tournament overnight.  As you can imagine, I’m not impressed by the words of CEO Ray Moore.  When I’ve calmed down and can form a coherent sentence on the story, I’ll be on it.



Cricket and more cricket

Sorry I’m not going to be able to write a column for the next couple of weeks, as I’m knee-deep in cricket!  You’ll still be able to catch up with my netballing adventures (off again tonight!), but otherwise it’s World T20 cricket all the way.

I’m writing a daily update plus match reports on England and Ireland matches.  Here are the links so far:

Back to Netball (after 30 years) – Part 4

So here I am at third actual week of active netball. And it’s all going surprisingly well. Each week I seem to have recovered better than the last, which is good. And I think I’m improving, in fact we all are.

This week it’s all about passing and footwork again – Val is determined that we will know what foot we’ve landed on….

So we’re jumping and hopping like, er, well, would fleas be too horrible a simile? Ok, fleas it is. And making sure we know where and how we’re landing. Pivoting to turn to face to person we are passing the ball to, making sure we’re balanced. Sounds easy? Well it’s not.

We go into one of Val’s fiendish drills which, at first, we’re all laughing at and thinking we’ll never get the hang of. Then the concentration hits and you can see it in every face. Not only are we going to get it right, but we’re going to get faster at it, a well-oiled machine.

I think it’s time for one of my ridiculous diagrams:

part 4 no1








Good grief, we were all over the place to start off with, but it really did get better. By the time we stop we’ve just about got it right and everyone is (rightly) pleased with themselves.

Then we do another drill, and, I have to confess, even now I’m not quite sure how it worked. It needed three to a group and we had a group of four so each of us took a turn to sit out. I was quite happy for my turn on the sidelines to come, and I couldn’t even understand it watching it from the outside!

Here it is (I think)

part 4 no 2

It was then complicated further by Val shouting change, at which point the sequence went the other way. I’m afraid I didn’t have a Scooby, although I tried hard!

To my intense relief, we ended the drill and got into a game. This time we not only got points for scoring but also for good footwork.

All good fun, and I say, I think we’re all improving.

I did have one star moment when, as a ball seemed to be sailing over my head, I leapt like a salmon (probably not much like one, in truth) and plucked it out of the air, earning a round of applause!

However, I’ve realised the sad truth – I’m waiting for Val to have a Hagrid moment

 “You’re a netballer, Penny!”

 But it’s not going to happen.

Even worse there is now a photo of me in action – cheers Emma, I’m so glad you took that…….




Women’s Sports Column

cricket25-11 March

Welcome to this week’s column. This week’s stories come from tennis, football, netball, cycling and cricket.

A good week again for British women’s tennis. After reporting on Heather Watson’s progress in the Monterrey Open last week, she only went on to win it! She beat Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the final 3-6 6-2 6-3. It is Watson’s third WTA title win.

And the tournaments keep on coming. Watson is in action again this week, this time in Indian Wells. She is through to the second round after beating Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan 7-6 4-6 6-1. She takes on 32nd seed Monica Niculescu in round two.

One of the most heartening sights of the week was the return of Laura Robson to the WTA tour. She was beaten in the first round at Indian Wells 7-6 6-2 by Magdalena Rybarikova, but the result didn’t really matter. It was the first time Robson had been in a tournament since the US Open in August 2015.

“I’m 100% better. The last time I felt pain was in January,” said Robson in an interview with the BBC.

Of course, we can’t ignore the other big tennis story of the week. Maria Sharapova announced this week that she had failed a drugs test during the Australian Open in January. She tested positive for the banned substance, meldonium. She had been taking the substance since 2006, apparently for health reasons. Meldonium has only been on the banned substances register since the beginning of this year.

The ITF (International Tennis Federation) has provisionally suspended Sharapova. She could face a 2-year ban.

Not wanting to be controversial, but I just wonder what the reaction would have been had it been Serena Williams who had failed the test….


After reporting Laura Trott’s first gold medal at the World Track Cycling Championships, needless to say she won again before the event was out, this time in the omnium. She was 12 points ahead when it came to the final 100-lap points race. And she never looked in trouble. She dominated from the start and the gold medal was confirmed with 20 laps to go.

France’s Laurie Berthon finished second with American Sarah Hammer in third.


England finished third in the SheBelieves Cup on goals scored after losing against Germany and drawing with France this week.

England were incredibly unlucky against Germany. They led through Toni Duggan header up until the 76th minute when they conceded an own-goal and a penalty to lose the game. Gilly Flaherty put the ball into her own net, which was unlucky enough, but the penalty award was a real shocker. Fara Williams, winning her 150th cap was adjudged to have foul tackled Alexandra Popp, when it was obvious to all except the officials that she took the ball cleanly.

England Head Coach, Mark Sampson, was unhappy about the standard of officiating. This has been a recurrent theme in women’s football recently and will have to be tackled by football’s governing bodies.

Good football was at a premium during the France match, not because the teams weren’t capable, but because the pitch was so dire. France really should have taken the lead in the first half as they had several chances, and England were relieved to go in level at half-time.

To counteract the pitch, both sides resorted to the long ball in the second half, but the deadlock was not to be broken and the game finished 0-0.

The winners of the tournament were USA after they beat Germany 2-1. Germany took the lead through Anja Mittag, but the hosts came back with two goals in six minutes from Alex Morgan and Samantha Mewis.

Wales finished the Cyprus Cup without a win. Their last hope was against Hungary on Wednesday, but they lost 2-1 to a goal in the last minute. This was the 5th/6th place play-off. Four games, two draws, two defeats. The tournament winners were Austria. They beat Poland in the final 2-1.

Really sad news from Doncaster Belles this week. Their midfielder Ashleigh Mills has had to retire at the age of 20 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

She posted on Twitter:

“I have tried so hard to get back but my legs just won’t go. Unfortunately this disease cannot be beaten and has taken my dream.”


The latest round of Netball Superleague results were as follows:

Friday 4th March
Celtic Dragons 53 45 Team Northumbria
Team Bath 60 44 Loughborough Lightning

Saturday 5th March

Yorkshire Jets 44 49 Manchester Thunder
Surrey Storm 50 55 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Monday 7th March

Hertfordshire Mavericks 67 45 Celtic Dragons


The World T20 Cup starts on Tuesday in India. I’ll be covering it for WSUK, so expect plenty of match reports, news and comment. I’ll keep posting the links on my blog so you can follow it all. England begin on Thursday against Bangladesh. The media coverage is, surprisingly, a bit hit and miss. Some of it is on Sky, some on TMS. So if you can’t follow it live, I suggest you check in on my blog or on WSUK to keep up with what’s going on.

I have previewed the tournament and the chances of the two groups for WSUK: group A and group B.

And finally, Women in Sport has announced its first patron – England women’s football Head Coach, Mark Sampson. Yes, it’s a man. But he is, in my opinion, a really good choice. He is unstinting in his promotion of women’s sport and has the ear of people who may actually be able to make a difference.

In accepting the position he said,

“Greater equality in sport is a cause men need to get behind as much as women do and I look forward to working more closely with the charity to further its mission.”