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Girls Meet Karen Atkinson at International Netball Roadshow

Wednesday, 06 August 2014

A group of girls taking part in the International Netball Roadshow met former England Captain Karen Atkinson.

Karen played for England for fifteen years, taking part in four Commonweath Games and four World Championships, and is now working as a Superleague coach. She also worked with the England Senior Squad in the build up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. She is therefore the perfect candidate to coach the girls and pass on her expert knowledge of the game!

The girls really enjoyed the exercises that Karen set them, from basic ball skills and passing to attack and defence. She was able to give them excellent advice on their technique and challenge them with tasks that stretched their abilities.

After lunch, Karen gave a short talk about how she got into netball and progressed to the England squad, followed by a question and answer session. She talked about the realities of playing netball to an international standard: when she first tried out for the England U16 team, aged fifteen, she was not selected and was told she was too short and needed to work on her ball skills and fitness. However, she used this as inspiration to work harder, practised with a netball or did fitness exercises and running every day, and one year later was accepted into the squad.

She also talked about her experiences on the senior England squad between 1996 and 2011, including her first ever match. She was given the chance to play Centre for the last fifteen minutes of the game, which was against Ireland. The England squad won 69-12, which was a great start to her international career.

One of the girls asked for any tips that Karen could give to them, which she was happy to provide. She said, “First of all, you have to be hard working. If you want to improve, you have to practise your ball skills every day. You have to work on your fitness no matter what position you’re in, whether you’re Centre or Goal Keeper, so practise your sprinting. Skipping is good for netball as well, and you can do it in a small space, like the back garden or yard. Also, if you play at school, it’s good to join another club outside of school so that you can practise with different people, and you might get different play time as well.”

The roadshow, which has been hosted at Bolton School, is a coaching course for young people who want to improve their abilities, whether they are just starting out or have been playing for years. Rupes Kitzinger, the Managing Director of Active Sport which organises the International Netball Roadshow, said, “We are delighted to be working with BSS Leisure Services at Bolton School again. The facilities and environment are excellent, as is the sporting pedigree in the area. Bolton School is the perfect place for our roadshows to help inspire future netball stars.”

Over the course of the three-day Netball Roadshow, the girls are given master-classes on ball skills, shooting technique, defence and attack, and marking, as well as playing some matches. With experienced coaches and a day of training with Karen, the International Netball Roadshow is a fantastic opportunity for children to learn and improve.

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The girls with Karen Atkinson and their coaches

The girls with Karen Atkinson and their coaches

A variety of challenges stretch and improve the young players

A variety of challenges stretch and improve the young players' skills

Practising a passing and spriting activity set by Karen

Practising a passing and spriting activity set by Karen