Returning to sport: Manchester Thunder and England’s Laura Malcolm on virtual coaching and inspiring next generation


Thunder’s Laura Malcolm runs her own coaching business which she combines with life as part of England’s full-time netball programme

Three weeks after schools reopened to all children, sports clubs have now also welcomed everyone back.

Last Wednesday, the government confirmed that the country could continue its phased return to normality and England Netball quickly followed with confirmation that grassroots netball had the green light to start welcoming players back.

It has been 13 months of disruption, innovation and avoiding boredom for many in all walks of life, with only a very brief respite as lockdown restrictions were eased for a short period last year.

Now, as outdoor sports facilities open and organised outdoor sports resume, football, netball, rugby and hockey clubs are opening their doors once again, we spoke to four netballers who have juggled the last year of athlete uncertainty with inspiring the next generation in their roles as teachers and coaches.

Thunder’s Laura Malcolm runs her own coaching business (Maias Netball) which she combines with life as part of England’s full-time netball programme

Laura Malcolm of Manchester Thunder (Image courtesy of Ben Lumley)

Laura Malcolm of Manchester Thunder (Image courtesy of Ben Lumley)

I’m fortunate enough to have a really cool coaching team of myself, Eleanor Cardwell, Nat Panagarry, Beth Cobden and Yaz Parsons.

We’ve all been digging in trying to give people content and sessions over this year and beyond really.

We usually go into schools and clubs and provide individual sessions as well, also we run our own netball sessions. The aim really is to just make us as accessible as possible; I know that a lot of people watch us on TV and get excited by watching us play. I think of me as a little girl and I was absolutely obsessed with sport in general and netball as the one that really inspired me, I absolutely loved it.

Over lockdown, it’s been amazing because something that I always used to do as a youngster was to train in the garden and get my mum and dad out to practice my skills with me. This is everything that people have been doing during, so it’s been a really amazing time to actually share the type of training which I believe is beneficial to help players on their own individual journeys and share the things that you can do on limited resources at home.

All the girls who have got on board are either teachers or qualified coaches as well, so we’ve got that extra string to our bow and we like to share all of our knowledge and help other people develop.

A netball journey for all

We got on the virtual hype early and it’s been really beneficial for a lot of people including us, it’s been a really enjoyable thing to do.

I’ve had some clubs working with me since lockdown one which is insane. There are some girls who have not stopped, and you can just see their inspirational mentality when it comes to training.

It’s been a really amazing time to actually share the type of training which I believe is beneficial to help players on their own individual journeys and share the things that you can do on limited resources at home.

Everyone has got on board with that thought process when it comes to their netball training; I think that a lot of people have probably made some good headway with their own netball journeys.

I started doing sessions pretty early on because just like for so many people out there, there was no way that netball could stop for me. I couldn’t get my netball fix in terms of actually playing but I knew that I could get my netball fix by linking in with the netball community and coaching.

We’ve just been coaching virtually for teams, for schools when they’ve gone back, we’ve done a lot of individual one-to-one coaching where we can but haven’t been allowed to do netball sessions yet.

“Everyone has got on board with that thought process when it comes to their netball training; I think that a lot of people have probably made some good headway with their own netball journeys,”

Laura Malcolm

Motivating ourselves

I’ve been really lucky because as soon as this happened, I knew that for me, I needed to be busy. Being busy is something that I thrive off as a person and I also know that I like structure and I love netball to a weird level!

I knew that these were all things that I had to make happen if I was going to cope in this extreme situation. Straightaway, I was doing live fitness sessions every week for free on YouTube and on Instagram; that gave me structure and it helped me a lot in my own training.

We, as elite athletes, are always put in environments when if we’re not up for a session we’re forced to be up for a session because of the environment.

We were stripped right back to motivating ourselves for every single session and for me personally, the sessions that I put on for people where I had to look at fit as possible and act like I wasn’t out of breath, really helped me!

My little community that I’ve been doing sessions with from the start, have personally motivated me a lot through these lockdowns. They have helped me just as much as I may have helped them.

Social sport

The health benefits are there, being active and living a healthy lifestyle. We’ve known for a long time that it is really important for young children and with this situation, it’s been highlighted even more.

There have been girls who cannot stop and who have committed to doing Zoom sessions from the start until today, during this crazy time, it just shows how helpful sport can be in terms of giving you structure and helping you have that drive and purpose.

It helps you to play your role within your team and netball, for me, is one of the best sports in terms of having that purpose and that role.

“Sport is really important, the social side is amazing and so many teams have said to me that just even being able to see each other on screen has been really helpful and I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when everyone can get back together!”

Laura Malcolm

Colette Thomson, an absolute legend of a coach and one of my favourite coaches, once said that netball is probably the only true team sport left.

With the restrictions that we have on the court and the positions that we have on our bibs, every person has to play a role and if you play your role well, then it helps with the whole performance of the team.

In netball, it can’t just be one person who takes it… I just think that level of responsibility and discipline that sport gives you is really beneficial and helpful to your character and can transfer into normal life.

I know that so many people are excited and I’m excited for everyone too.

Sky Sports is your home of netball. The Vitality Netball Superleague continues on Sunday with Round Eight and four matches back-to-back streamed live on the Sky Sports YouTube channel from 12pm.





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