CLUB OF THE WEEK: Abbey Meads Netball Club
NEW surroundings seem to have given Abbey Meads Netball Club a new lease of life.
The club was formed in 2004 and until last year played at Isambard School, but is now flourishing since moving in to their new home at Next Generation gym.
The regional team currently lies top of Regional League 3 while the remainder of the Abbey Meads teams are now firing on all cylinders after a shaky start to the season.
Their new home has given them use of a second court and access to gym facilities, which mean that training is more efficient, fitness work can be done as a team and the club is able to welcome more players to sessions.
In addition to the regional side and the five teams in the Swindon and District League, the club has a thriving junior section and an over-35s squad.
Publicity officer Jennifer Purcell is delighted with how these new sections of the club have been received.
“The junior training has only been going for a year or so, and has come on so much,” she said.
“At first we only had between seven and 10 girls at sessions.
“Now we have more than 30 girls regularly coming to train, and plenty of the youngsters play in the senior squads.”
“We’re really pleased to now be able to offer an over-35s squad, it’s proving very popular.”
The club’s top team was promoted into the regional league at the end of last season, having won the top district division for the last four years, and has a clean sheet so far.
Optimistic of her team’s chances and enjoying the challenge is goal attack Julie Hewitt, who has played for Abbey Meads since its creation.
“It’s exciting being in the regionals for the first time,” she said.
“It’s good because it’s tough, and we enjoy playing different teams.
“The travelling is also different, last week we were at Team Bath which was so exciting.
“We’ve had some good results so far, but it is still early days.”
The club has an open-door policy and welcomes anyone to join, whether they are new to netball, taking it back up or are experienced players.
In order to attend training sessions, which take place on Tuesday evenings for all teams and Thursday evenings for the regional and ‘A’ teams, members pay a general subscription but the first training session is offered free with no commitment.
With over 100 players on their books, Purcell admits Abbey Meads is very healthy at present, and for this she credits the encouragement of the coaches and the popularity of the sport in Swindon.
“As a club we’re doing really well, and that is mainly because we’re a friendly club,” Purcell added.
“The main reason I got involved was because Lorraine Bullpitt was so encouraging about me coming along to training.
“I play for the friendly competition, and to be part of a team of girls who you play with week in, week out, and whether you’re winning or losing it’s still fun.
“Netball in Swindon is a really popular sport, it’s played in all the schools and there’s a really successful Swindon school tournament.”
Like many of the members in attendance, assistant coach Christina Davidson cannot hide her enthusiasm for the sport and the club.
“Netball is a mental game as well as a physical game, it’s great,” she said.
“It’s good to see so many new attendants of different abilities coming in all the time.”
Judging by the buzz around the club it is clear that the teams are working hard to maximise their strengths on the court and get the ever-important league victories. Purcell explains that it typically takes a few weeks at the start of the season for new combinations on court to blend.
“At the start of the season it always takes time to gel”, she said.
“We restructure the teams during the summer, so they only have a couple of weeks training together before they start in the league, which explains why the wins don’t come straight away.
“This week has been really good for us, and we hope to move forward from here.”
A brief look at the history of the club demonstrates the development that has taken place in the last 10 years, from a small group of local women passionate about netball to a thriving club competing with the very best clubs in the region.
With the brilliant facilities at Next Generation and the passion of all their members, it seems as though there is nothing stopping Abbey Meads Netball Club.
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