The secrets of our
Two schools and colleges from opposite ends of the country are united in one positive way – their superb netball success.
While Wirral Grammar Schools for Girls became national U14 champions last season (not to mention winning five county championships), Worthing College are reigning U14 champions.
Tina Price, Worthing’s sports academy coordinator, and Alex Lodge, Wirral’s head of PE, reveals the secrets of their success.
How did netball become such an important part of your sporting curriculum?
Alex Lodge: Netball has always been a huge part of the curriculum ar Wirral. Debbie Crowley, who has now retired, promoted and pushed the sport creating a netball legacy at the school and developed a great reputation for netball success.
What facilities do you have?
Alex Lodge: We have a single court sports hall and ten outdoor netball courts.
Tina Price: Outdoor courts, a strength and conditioning centre and gym.
What specific programmes have contributed to your success?
Alex Lodge: We have an extensive extra-curricular programme which our students are very committed to with very dedicated staff who give up a lot of time to run the different clubs.
Tina Price: Timetabling to allow the girls to all train together for two hours twice a week and play fixtures around the regional on a Wednesday without it impacting on their studies
How important are your school/club links?
Alex Lodge: The club links are very important and have helped to develop our school netball tremendously. A lot of our students play for Chester Netball allowing them access strong netball outside of school and play in competitive local, regional and national match every week. We also have several girls that play for Ellesmere Port NC, Galaxy NC and Wirral Gems NC allowing and encouraging healthy competition in the local area and providing many opportunities for the students to be active.
Tina Price: Club-link is crucial to the college success
How much difference does a good teacher coach make to a school team?
Alex Lodge: It makes a lot of difference as the teacher can further develop the students knowledge and understanding of the game as well as their skills. A good coach can motivate, encourage and inspire commitment and a competitive ethos.
Tina Price: Having a member of staff who has access to the girls throughout the week who is a qualified coach is a must for a successful programme.
Are there any other secrets of your success?
Alex Lodge: The support we receive from Mrs Cogan, our headteacher, is invaluable towards our success. She understands and actively promotes the wider curriculum and the value of sport, teamwork and an active lifestyle to younger people's lives. The parents are also an invaluable key to our success. They help to transport the girls to fixtures, support them at matches and encourage loyalty and commitment to the teams.
Tina Price: While having good club-links is a must, our recruitment of students starts in year 9.
How important is competitive netball to you?
Alex Lodge: Very important. Netball is the highest participated female sport in the country and it is fantastic that there are so many opportunities for girls to play a high level of sport regularly. Students learn a lot about themselves on court, competitive sport teaches teamwork, resilience and commitment and the different competitions gives girls the chance to showcase their talents and dedication.
Tina Price: Extremely important – students all love to play competitively.
Tell us about one match that stands out in your memory?
Alex Lodge: The national final for our U14 team. The game was very close at half time, with only one goal in it. Our girls went back on after the half time break with such focus, determination and belief that they were going to win and played the best I have ever seen them play, going on the win by six.
Tina Price: Beating Millfield in the semi-final of the U19 national schools.
What could be done to improve netball in schools/colleges?
Alex Lodge: More support of physical education as a whole by the government. Unfortunately, PE is not viewed as an important subject as it is not one of the ‘headline results', therefore it is not valued in many schools. This makes it very difficult for PE staff to promote and encourage attendance at extra-curricular clubs to achieve a good level of performance for competitions. It would also be helpful to have more leagues ran in local areas to allow for more competitive matches.
Tina Price: Better coaching for teachers to enable them to coach the youngsters correctly.
How can other schools/colleges achieve what you have achieved?
Alex Lodge: Creating a sporting ethos in a school can take time but it's important to encourage a consistent and committed approach to the extra-curricular clubs for both the students and parents. Creating strong club links to open up opportunities for the students and develop their skills and understanding of the sport is also key to success.
Tina Price: They need to set up an academy, recruit well, timetable so the girls have training time together and enter all competitions.