Helen Housby is one of the stars of the England netball team who played for Superleague side Manchester Thunder from 2013 to 2016 before moving to the New South Wales Swifts.
Here the 23-year-old reveals the sporting schooldays that set her on the road to success.
What school (s) did you attend?
My primary school was Wiggonby CofE School and secondary was Nelson Tomlinson School in Cumbria.
What are your earliest sporting memories?
I remember playing netball at Wiggonby in primary school, I think maybe year two was the first time. I’ve just got an image of getting the centre pass and just launching it straight into the circle to one of my friends. I guess just doing it for the fun of it is what I remember too.
Who were your sporting heroes as a youngster growing up?
When I was growing up, I loved all sports and was particularly keen on football as well, so people like David Beckham. When I got a bit older people like Jessica Ennis really stood out to me and the pressures that she had going into the Olympics and how she dealt with that. I was at the start of my professional netball career at that time and it just hit home about how she handled that and everything that went along with those pressures.
Were you always a natural sportsperson?
I guess I was. I came out wanting to play sport every day after school. I don’t think I was inside much. In secondary school I pretty much played every sport that was available to me, I did netball, football, hockey, tennis, athletics, rounders, just everything that was there I went for. Plus at that time I was playing with my friends and there was no pressure on it so it was a lot of fun. I was just doing it because I was having a good time, plus I’m very competitive as most people who’ve spent some time with me will probably know.
When did you realise you had a real talent?
I think I was probably around 16 or 17. At the time I was pretty good at netball, football and athletics and I was kind of going between the three. I then got a north west of England trial and then an England trial, so I think it was then I thought I’m pretty good at this. That then started to weigh into my options of where I wanted to go to university and how I was going to be able to continue netball. I think when I got my full England trial that was when I realised it was serious and I put a lot of effort into it.
What are your worst sporting memories at school?
I got hit in the face with a rounders ball once and bust my nose. I also used to fall over a lot playing hockey. I actually am quite clumsy and I used to just swing the hockey stick around and fall over all the time.
Who were your most inspirational sports teachers?
Mrs Lee was my secondary school sports teacher and she was the head of netball. Just her love of the game and for making us better as a team was inspiring. She was really supportive and positive and we had a really similar mindset I think when it came to competitiveness and so on. She always made me feel like I was pushing myself but also enjoying netball all at the same time.
How important is it for you to be a role model for youngsters?
It’s very important. I think when you are representing your country you are kind of forced into being a role model too, whether you like it or not. We know we are inspiring the next generation and we want to leave the England dress in a better place than when we picked it up. Also a lot of our fans are young impressionable girls who are on social media and they want to see their favourite players and what they’re up to and interact with us in that way. I want to provide a positive message across those channels about what it is for women to take part in a sport and all of those good things about playing professional netball. I love being a role model and hope I get to continue to be one.
What advice would you give any young aspiring sports stars today?
Make sure you’re enjoying yourself because the minute you stop enjoying yourself you need to question what it is you’re doing and if it’s still what you want to do. I would also say work hard and challenge yourself, plus if you’re in a team sport do your own training so when you go back to practise you’re a better player.
Can you recall a memorable school report?
I remember one when I was doing PE. I was doing the theory part of it and my teacher said ‘her theory is very similar to her practical as she won’t sit still and she wants to be active constantly.’ I love being active and I was probably always bouncing around in my chair.
When was the last time you cried at a sporting event?
I definitely cried at the Commonwealth Games final. I cry when I’m happy, sad or excited. I think it’s a positive thing to be passionate and to let it all out. It keeps you focused as well.
What would you have been if you hadn’t been a sportsperson?
I probably would have been either a vet or an astronaut. When I was younger I always wanted to be an astronaut, I thought it was fascinating. I studied zoology at university in Manchester as I’ve always loved animals, so I could have seen myself going along that route.
How important are schools in the development of sport and what can be done to improve sport in schools?
Schools are so important, I got my love of sport through school. I don’t think I would be where I am if it wasn’t for the school I went to and the sports they put on offer. I got to travel to different countries with my sport at school. I went to Holland to play hockey for instance. I think sometimes PE at school can be quite intimidating for girls. Some may feel quite self-conscious in that situation, but I think it’s important to take steps to alleviate that and make girls feel confident and ensure they can do something they want to do and enjoy in their sports lessons.
England netball star Helen Housby's sporting schooldays