A new driving force for Island netball

NETBALL cancellations brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Jersey, with more players potentially signing up for coaching and umpiring programmes to fill the time.

Teenager Abbie Thompson has joined the Jersey Netball Association's management committee, tasked with promoting growth within the junior game Picture: ROB CURRIE
Teenager Abbie Thompson has joined the Jersey Netball Association's management committee, tasked with promoting growth within the junior game Picture: ROB CURRIE

That is the belief of increasingly-influential junior Abbie Thompson, who continues on an already-impressive path behind the scenes as the newest member of the Jersey Netball Association’s management committee.

The teenager has emerged as a driving force for youth netball in recent years, as both an umpire and coach, and her input will now hold greater value as head of a newly-formed junior panel for 11- to 19-year-olds – designed to boost interaction and involvement among the next generation of Island players.

Already a winner of the JNA’s Linjax Trophy for off-court contributions in 2019 and also the recipient of an England Netball youth award at the governing body’s annual Goalden Globe Awards, Thompson is determined to keep youngsters engaged while league fixtures are postponed and also build a foundation for future success.

‘Over the next couple of months we’ll be keeping the girls going online and Covid actually gives us a platform to get girls into volunteering,’ said the 18-year-old, who fronted a ‘24 days of Christmas’ project last month, providing netball-skill challenges each day via social media.

‘I want to get more young people involved in volunteering. When I started out there weren’t any youth coaches and there wasn’t really anyone the girls could go to. It can be quite off-putting for a lot of people. It’s all well and good having mentors in their 40s, 50s or 60s but they sometimes don’t understand the pressures of school and exams and netball on top of that.

‘It would be nice to encourage girls my own age and younger to start umpiring and coaching. Jersey netball needs volunteers to keep it going so if we can encourage more girls it will be really valuable.’

The JCG student, who coaches both her school teams and Jersey’s under-11s, added: ‘When I became part of the committee I also started our own youth committee – interviewing some of the girls to put a small group together – and then I was approached by Netball South West to join their youth committee too. So now I’m working with them as well to encourage more connections between Jersey and the UK.

‘As a volunteer you always want to give back but to get recognition for it as well is nice.’

And Thompson’s efforts are not bound by British borders, with an upcoming trip across the Atlantic also on the cards with the help of UK charity United Through Sport.

‘In the summer I’m hoping to do a volunteer project for grassroots netball in the Caribbean,’ she explained.

‘I’ve been in contact with a couple of agencies running netball programmes over there and I’ve been mentoring girls in St Lucia about how to coach and mentor younger girls. It will be nice to go over there and put everything I’ve been doing here into action.’

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