Monica’s Netball Journey

I didn’t think much of netball when I first started playing, initially it was just another way to stay in touch with my friends. I’d played a few times prior to joining Bridgnorth Endowed School, but it was only in five a side games organised to select the best two teams for the Shropshire Schools Winter Games.

Monica with Friends at Bridgnorth NC

I’ve always loved sport and aimed to get involved in as many as possible. When I moved to Bridgnorth Endowed School, one of my PE teachers suggested I join the local team. This was not because of my ability, nor was it because of my height, it was because I showed an interest in the sport and wanted to learn. Many of my other friends had played for a few years. After a couple of sessions, our coach (Anna Owen) brought me into the team for my age group. By the end of the season I was put forward for county trials.

My trial was successful and I spent the next two years moving through the county system. I’d been put in the lower of the two groups to start with, but by my second year I’d moved into the top team and had captained the second team. One of the coaches spoke about looking to trial for a franchise.

Now nearing what would be my final year in the county academy, I chose to trial for the Severn Stars Nova Academy, the hub was a new one based at Wrekin College. I completed two trials for Stars around the start of the school year before I was offered a space. I was completely shocked. The first training session I had with the Nova’s was strength and conditioning.

Shropshire Netball Academy Tournament

We have two types of sessions in the Nova Academies, Strength & Conditioning (S&C) and court based, with regular games against the other hubs. Had it not been for athletics keeping me fit, I would have found it hard to keep up. I have found that I work best when challenged. Sure enough, I began to develop my game more. I then decided that in order to reach my full potential, I must move clubs. I moved from Bridgnorth to Tibberton in the winter of 2018.

I realised that to develop my game even further, I needed to be even more committed. Having the opportunity to join Wrekin College with a sports scholarship gave me this chance. 

Stars Nova have an end of season tournament. This is where every hub (there’s around eight in total) come together with the county teams to play. The tournament was held at Gloucester. After my first game, I remember sitting on the side-line, resting and watching another Nova game when a lady came running past, patted me on the head and said, “well done young lady”. I hadn’t thought anything of it until my coach Caroline Ritchie-Morgan informed me that she was actually part of the England pathway. I’d been spotted. 

Around Springtime, I was entered for the U15 trials and made it into the long squad, a team of roughly twenty players. Our coach was Sam Cook, a famed defender in the Superleague who had previously played for the Severn Stars first team. Training took another step up, the squad was reduced to 12 and I was really surprised when I saw my name upon the final list of players.  The U15 competition was held the last weekend of August, I was extremely excited to be part of the event. Unfortunately, those feelings would not last. When I wasn’t named in the starting seven, I felt sad but thought I would at least get some game time. I think I

probably got around three quarters over the whole weekend. On the last day, the A-string GK injured herself, I replaced her, played well, but the next game she went on again as if nothing had happened. I left the event broken.

The following year I made it into the U17 Nova again and had high hopes. On top of making it into the U17 Nova, I also made it into the U17 long squad which is effectively a team made up of the top players from every Nova. Meanwhile I had also been called up to train and play with the Tibberton Adult Team as well as helping our school team qualify for regionals. This in itself was challenging, but as with anything, if you stick with it long enough, you can make that improvement.

Then came my greatest set back, I broke my leg in a freak accident playing netball. We had been playing netball in Worcester and I’d gone for the overhead ball. Instead of taking off from the ground, I ended up pushing off of another girl’s foot, causing my ankle to roll. I knew from the moment I hit the ground that it wasn’t a sprain. 

I was told I’d suffered an avulsion fracture to my left fibula and would be out for three months, and that it would then take another few months to get back to my previous level of fitness. I once again found myself broken and in tears. Luckily for my recovery, COVID-19 stopped play for all. 

The next season came around extremely quickly, but this time I was too old for the Nova Academy, so I had to trial for the U19’s at the age of 16. The U19’s doesn’t have hubs, they have one team, so it’s even harder to get into, plus my age/experience would go against me. The trials were tough, but I once again succeeded. U19’s is now classed as an ‘elite level of sport’, so we were able to continue training amidst the pandemic, however we did have to follow strict protocol. We were split up into groups we’d train in and were only allowed to do straight line running for the first few weeks. This would then gradually increase until match play was allowed. I arrived at the University of Gloucester for one training session, Melissa Bessell (the manager for the Superleague Stars), was sat at the front desk. I acknowledged her politely, she then asked me if I could train with the adult squad that evening. As always, I was overwhelmed by the step up. I knew just how amazing the opportunity was. For the first few sessions I kept my head down and apologised for every mistake I made, I felt intimidated by how good everyone was. The only way to overcome a fear, however small, is to face it, so I committed myself to those sessions. 

Monica at Severn Stars

It took a while for me to feel comfortable in that environment. The intensity was higher, the skill standard higher still, analysis came into the game, but the dedication shown from every single player, was the factor that mostly stood out. Having the opportunity to train with the actual Stars team for a few months, was truly inspirational. 

Now that U19’s are starting back, I am re-joining them for the rest of the season, as Stars take to their Superleague season. I have fingers crossed Covid-19 doesn’t interfere too much from now on. 

By

Monica White Tibberton Netball Club & Severn Stars U19 Squad Player

Monica Has Now Been Selected into the Severn Stars U19 Squad

Huge Congratulations from the Shropshire Netball Family