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England Netball

What we've learnt over the last year of coronavirus restrictions and how we're reopening from the third national lockdown.

29th March 2021

Name of project / organisation

England Netball

Sport / activity


With the second phase of step one of the government's roadmap out of coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions begins today, we've spoken to a number of clubs and organisations about their experiences during lockdown and what they've learnt over the last year that'll help them to reopen. 

Here, we talk to Katy Ritchie, the director of development at England Netball.

A girls plays netball outside.

  • What’s the past year been like for you, as an organisation and the people you serve?

    The last 12 months have been hard for everyone, both physically and mentally, but it’s been a privilege to witness the resilience and passion of those that make up our ‘netball family’.

    All of our players, volunteers, coaches, umpires, and fans have been missing the game and I think more than ever we’ve realised how much people rely on netball and sport in general.

    It’s been vital for us to keep people engaged in our sport and to avoid losing the growth and momentum we were enjoying prior to the pandemic.

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  • How have you engaged and communicated with your grassroots participants through the coronavirus pandemic?

    We’ve worked hard to keep in regular communication with the netball family, through regular email communication, detailed guidance and content on our website and through social media.

    We’ve also hosted regular forums and introduced the Virtual Netball Club – an online platform for members to access online workouts, never seen before interviews with athletes, coaching tips and more. 

    We’ve been innovative and creative in how we engage with our members.

    We’ve created online education opportunities so people can keep building on their careers in the sport.

    We’ve connected more than ever with our volunteers and those who help make the game happen.

    And we’ve seen and celebrated the amazing efforts of those who are a part of the netball family and have worked on the front line, fundraised and done their bit to keep others active and involved in the sport we love.

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  • How have you tried to keep people active, despite the challenges faced?

    Through our partnerships we’ve offered members discounts on exercise and netball equipment they can use at home.

    We’ve created fun challenges via our social media channels from shooting and passing challenges to live sessions with England players, offering the netball family the opportunity to win great prizes through many of these activities.

    Also, through the creation of our Virtual Netball Club we’ve continued to offer workouts focused on match play, improving fitness levels, focusing on particular areas of the court, and much more.

    Our brilliant athletes have also, throughout this time, done all they can to inspire the netball family through their own platforms too.

    Netball is more than a sport, it really is a family and a community.

    This has become more apparent than ever over the last 12 months and we can see how vital it is that we continue to inspire women and girls to get active and to not let the pandemic affect their return to court. We’ve been doing all we can to keep them engaged and moving in these challenging times and will continue to do so.

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  • Have there been any positives/opportunities emerging from what you’ve experienced over the past year? If so, what are they?

    Last year we launched our #RiseAgain campaign, which encouraged members of the netball family to get behind the sport in the difficult climate and buy a membership despite not being able to play, which would therefore protect netball and help us survive and grow in the future.

    The campaign was a huge success and united the whole netball family. It really showed how people feel about the sport and how dedicated they are to it – it was really moving to witness.

    We’ve also used this opportunity to launch education courses virtually, so people all over the country can get involved, we’ve already sold out many of our coaching courses as part of this.

    At an elite level we’ve been able to see the Vitality Roses get back on court and got the Vitality Netball Superleague back up and running, which was a huge feat and team effort behind the scenes.

    Sky Sports are currently covering more Vitality Netball Superleague games live than ever before, therefore meaning more eyes on the game and an opportunity for our elite players to inspire others to play and get active.

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  • How have you planned for the reopening after this lockdown and what are the key elements your clubs/participants are having to do, in order to reopen and return safely?

    A big challenge for many of our clubs and leagues is getting access to facilities/courts as many are not opening on 29 March.

    As part of this we’ve been working hard to ensure we can help clubs find a safe space to play and train from 29 March outdoors. Action planning is underway to locally advocate and influence closed sites that have the greatest impact on members returning to court to reopen.

    We’ve also continued to create detailed guidance preparing for netball’s return, hosted forums for our regional and county volunteers, as well as club and leagues, and ensured our dedicated Covid-19 Officers across the country are prepared for any challenges they may face in returning.

    We’ve shared a roadmap that aligns to government protocols to show how netball will return fully over the coming months and are continuing to let the public know about any opportunities to play, train and get active again.

    There are several steps our volunteers, clubs and leagues need to follow from booking courts, to putting safety protocols in place for players, conducting risk assessments and more, but we’re helping them every step of the way with this.

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A girls calls for the ball while playing netball outside.

  • What have you learned from the reopening process you went through after the first lockdown in 2020?

    We have learnt more than ever how passionate and determined our volunteers are.

    At each stage of this pandemic our volunteers have had extensive steps to follow, protocols to put in place and a huge amount of work to do to get netball back, but our volunteers have showed resilience throughout these many hurdles and are doing all they can to drive netball’s return forward and keep our sport going.

    We’re so thankful for their support, patience and hard work – it shows what amazing people we have in our netball family.

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  • How are you reassuring your participants it’s safe to return to play?

    We will be sharing detailed guidance on going about safety protocols in place, from modified game rules to cleaning protocols onsite to make participants feel as comfortable as possible.

    Has your sport posed any specific problems that other sports/activities may not encounter? If so, how have you worked to solve these problems?

    As a sport that is largely played by women and girls, we’ve been concerned to see in recent reports that activity levels in women and girls have dropped during the pandemic, with many nervous about returning to sport and activity as we come out of lockdown.

    Women’s activity levels are often significantly lower to men’s and we continue to work hard to grow that number and provide opportunities for women to play.

    We have a challenge ahead of us to get activity levels up amongst women and girls but we’re confident we can do this by providing lots of opportunities to play via our participation programmes, launching exciting and motivational campaigns and using role models in the sport to inspire them.

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  • What does the future look like for your sport?

    We’re hopeful and excited for the future. There’s lots of opportunities to grow our sport at all levels, we are confident we can get more women and girls active again and enjoying this wonderful sport.

    We also hope to have a spring and summer where outdoor courts across the country and filled with netballers.

    In addition, we have an exciting new strategy on the horizon which we can’t wait to reveal more on.

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