Poole and Bournemouth netball is back in full swing, albeit with some changes…
New COVID restrictions couldn’t obstruct the determination of Bournemouth and Poole Netball Clubs on Tuesday night, as they played one of their first matches since lockdown commenced in March.
The new government guidelines allow organised outdoor sports such as netball. Adhering to official regulations announced by England Netball on 22nd September, netball is currently at Stage 4 on the Return to Play Roadmap. This means competitions are permitted, providing they are modified following the government framework.
Amendments include the following:
- Minimum of 4ft distance between players instead of the normal 3ft.
- Sanitisation of hands, balls, and bibs every quarter interval.
- Smaller team divisions.
WHAT ELSE HAS CHANGED?
Out of six total outdoor courts available at Sir David English Sports Centre – the home of Bournemouth netball – only four can be used for active play. This leaves the middle courts empty and provides spectators with plenty of space to socially distance. Players must also come ready dressed and fill a contact track and trace form upon arrival.
The sport was able to begin again from 28th September. However, the Bournemouth Netball Association had to complete risk assessments to facilitate the return process and ensure all recommended procedures were in place before any competitions could go ahead. They staggered teams’ returns, with the first few games recommencing last week. Among those returning this week were teams Poole 2 and Poole 4 of Poole Netball Club.
WHAT DO THE OFFICIALS SAY?
According to Debbie Knight, Chair and Secretary of Bournemouth Netball Association, “Half the ladies were very scared to return. And half couldn’t wait!”
Despite the polarised reactions, once players assembled on court and the whistle blew for their first game, it was evident they were excited to play again. Any stray nerves were hidden well.
Debbie said, “They would rather play netball this way than have no netball at all”.
Poole Netball Club coach Lil Corani supported this statement, adding, “It’s going pretty good to be honest”.
Although players kept in regular contact and attended exercise sessions over Zoom, Lil said the seven-month hiatus ‘affected a lot of team members’. She cited mental health as a positive for returning.
By the camaraderie – albeit socially distanced – displayed both on- and off-court, it seemed as if no time had passed at all.
Lil also said there was some initial trepidation and confusion surrounding the new restrictions. However, now, the players ‘don’t mind’ because gameplay is ‘not that different’. From the implementation of routine sanitisation to the consistent upkeep of a 4ft distance, Poole 2 and Poole 4 proved they could adapt well. A testament to their resilience.
Furthermore, even with the changes, the game remained recognisable as the biggest women’s sport in the country.
“It’s just nice to be back,” commented Lil. A sentiment certainly shared by the teams thriving on court, playing with energy as vibrant as the neon pink kit sported by Bournemouth Netball Club.