The COVID-19 pandemic has been having a knock-on effect on sport worldwide. As a result of the virus spreading, a lot of sports competitions were paused and in some cases even cancelled. One sport in particular affected by this was netball.
The Netball Superleague, England's top division of the sport in the UK, was forced to stop last year after only four rounds of games.
An annoying but understandable situation given the circumstances at the time. But how did players react to this?
Speaking exclusively to GiveMeSport Women, Team Bath’s Tash Pavelin reveals how she and her teammates felt about the news.
“There was quite a lot of disappointment, quite a lot of frustration that it had come to an end and I think it was really weird for all of us not to then be training multiple times a week, not to have those games when we've basically done the whole of pre-season and then barely got the season started and [then it] all ended,” she said.
(Image credit: Ben Lumley)
With no netball and plenty of rules around social distancing and the number of people in one area, etc. How did the defender and fellow Bath players stay in shape?
“We stayed hooked in online, we did natural sessions remotely over Zoom, and made sure we've kind of still hooked in as a team, even though the season had been cancelled,” she noted.
“That was good for all of us. To still get that kind of natural fix and still be able to interact with our teammates, even though we've kind of all dispersed and weren’t able to actually train in person.”
Luckily this season has gone ahead, but there have been changes to match rules and where games are being played. For example, all quarters have been shortened from 15 minutes to 12, draws were introduced to the league instead of extra time, and 12 players are now allowed in a matchday squad.
The league being announced for this year meant one thing – clubs were allowed to train in person again. This was something Pavelin was delighted about.
“It was such a buzz when we first managed to get back to training, even though in the first couple of sessions we had to follow a return to play and we weren't necessarily allowed to play netball, as you'd kind of picture it,” she explained..
“Everyone was just so happy to be there. And then as things progressed, and we could actually start playing what looks more and more like netball, it just kind of got really exciting.
“Then going through pre season, the realisation that the league was actually going to happen and things had been put in place. I think we just all got really excited to get back out there again.”
Another rule in place to allow the league to go ahead was set venues for matches. The first nine weeks of Superleague action was played at Studio 001 in Wakefield, before moving to the Copper Box in London for round 10 and onward.
The journey from Bath to West Yorkshire is a big one – was this something Pavelin didn’t enjoy?
“The travelling has been a lot. Normally you'd have home and away games, so it wouldn't be half as much. Whereas this time having to travel every week, it has been quite a lot and I think it has been quite tiring,” she noted.
“It's made recovery time and putting effort into recovery even more important. But I think it's been dealt with really well. I think the setup that we've got at Bath has been really good.”
The 23-year-old has taken some positives from this though, saying:
“I think as much as the travelling has been annoying, and it has been quite long, I think we have adapted to it. And I think it has been done as well as it could have been done this season.”
Despite games being held behind closed doors, fans are still able to get their netball fix. This is thanks to all Superleague games airing for free on YouTube - something Pavelin is a fan of.
(Image credit: Team Bath Netball)
“This season is being completely streamed on YouTube. To make it available for all fans to watch at home has really helped grow the sport and grow the audience which wasn't necessarily available to them before,” she said.News Now - Sport News