Weston Netball Club look to get back to playing sport – under strict new guidelines

PUBLISHED: 10:00 15 October 2020

Weston Netball Club with Serena Guthrie after one of their training sessions last November. Picture: Weston Netball Club

Weston Netball Club with Serena Guthrie after one of their training sessions last November. Picture: Weston Netball Club


Weston Netball Club members were pleased to return to action last month, albeit under strict new guidelines.

Former in 1988 with just seven players, they now have over 75 members including juniors and Back 2 Netball sessions for those wanting to play socially.

They train on Monday evenings, with the seniors playing in the Weston & District League on Wednesdays at venues around the town, and their philosophy is to give every woman and girl the chance to play, recreationally or competitively at all levels.

The 2019-20 season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, with the last three matches unplayed and no promotion or relegation in the three divisions.

But the new season has been delayed as Coleen Bartlett said: “We haven’t been able to train properly and lockdown hasn’t been too kind to our waist lines either, or is that just me?!

“We have been desperate to get back to playing, especially when so many male counterparts were returning to golf, football and sports they enjoy, but due to the level of contact netball is unfortunately deemed as a high risk sport and we have been far down the government priority list.

“Thankfully at the end of last month they finally gave us the go ahead to resume ball sharing and game play, albeit under modified conditions.”

Members have not been able to watch Super League action on TV either, with their league season cancelled earlier in the year as well and no plan to restart.

Bartlett added: “Netball does not have the advantage of large sponsorship deals, the largest income being from Sky Sports who televise games weekly, so without this, some Super League teams have struggled financially.

“Saracens Mavericks have started a crowdfunding page, on top of this England Netball have lost out on affiliation income, with grassroots players unwilling to sign up and pay subscriptions, when we have no idea when full competitive play – without modifications – will return.”

Weston Netball Club, and others, have had to put lots in place with regards to Covid-19 precautions just to start training again, supplying extensive risk assessments and other measures.

It has had a big impact on how they will have to play in future and Bartlett said: “It has been a frustrating time as the game will feel quiet alien from what we’re used to. We’ve moved to stage 4a of All England guidance, which has introduced Covid-19 rule modifications, with 4b hopefully to follow later.

“We can now participate in full training and play games, however the new rules mean maintaining a distance of at least four feet when marking another player, we aren’t recommended to play indoors due to the lack of ventilation, which is not very timely as we are moving into Autumn.

“Equipment sharing is permitted but strict Covid safety measures have to be applied through training and play, wiping the ball every 15 minutes. No shouting on court, spectators have to sit four feet away from others and at quarter time we gather at safe distance on court for team discussions. No sharing of bibs is again difficult when you want to make changes or substitutions.

“These rules will have a huge impact on the game and for a defending player, like myself, I will feel pretty useless, and will not be able to have a positive impact on the game.”

Weston have taken surveys on how players feel about training and playing and the Weston League have delayed a return until January 2021 as most clubs feel competitiveness will be lost amidst the rule changes as teams can’t get access to indoor training facilities to prepare for the season.

Bartlett said: “Netball is a good way of keeping fit, good for socialising as well as a positive factor for mental health. We are all missing playing and can’t wait for some sort of normality.

“Weston have a dedicated committee who have worked tirelessly on safeguarding players, working through information regarding risk assessments to ensure everyone’s safety.

“Our coaches have the task of implementing the new rules but fortunately we have very competent and loyal coaches whom always provide us with great fun, yet challenging training so in them we trust.

“Once we receive the green light to resume normal play we will be looking to increase our numbers, for those keen and experienced netball players to join our teams and for those who just want to get back into netball as they haven’t played for years our Back 2 Netball group is a great option.

“We wish all of our netball family and friends a great and safe return to netball in whatever form it should take.”

See westonnetballclub.co.uk and englandnetball.co.uk for more.

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