Netball is full of role models that range from players, coaches, officials and administrators. All of which have contributed to the sport, and in return inspiring others to do the same. Read through the stories of just some of netball’s truly great role models.
One of the most recognisable umpires; Sharon Kelly.
Officials and umpires may be overlooked when it comes to role models, but they provide the same significance as players and coaches alike. Step forward one of the games great and most recognisable umpires; Sharon Kelly. Having umpired at the highest level for well over a decade, Sharon can certainly be considered as one of the games great role models.
It all began as early as eight years old, when Sharon played at school where her mum and sister were already involved in the sport. She has always played, umpired and coached for the same Association – Northern Suburbs in New South Wales – and her commitment was recognised when she was honoured with becoming a Life Member in 1989.
In a career as illustrious as Sharon’s, it would always be very difficult to choose a stand out highlight. Having umpired major finals, umpiring at events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Netball World Cup, and also being named Australian Umpire of the Year countless times, it would always be a tough choice for anyone. We asked Sharon and she said:
“It is very hard to pick one career highlight. My first Test Series in 1998 between Australia and New Zealand stands out as a highlight and I suppose as the first step to many opportunities that then came my way.
“As the pinnacle competitions of our sports, it was always an enormous honour to be selected to umpire at Commonwealth Games and World Championships.”
Sharon talks very fondly about what netball has done for her personally: “Netball has given me opportunities to see parts of the world that I never dreamt of seeing. Of making friends and colleagues from all walks of life and learning from each and every one of them. Being an umpire has taught me an immense amount about integrity and professionalism and this in turn has altered my outlook in life.
“However the best part of being a netball umpire, is being able to participate and with your skill, enhance a game for all to enjoy playing and/or watching.”
On a final note, what’s her advice to aspiring umpires?
“Work on skills and techniques of umpiring, the rules are only a part of it. Work with coaches and players at all levels, it’s the best education you’ll get.”
Mary Waya, influential Malawian netball player
Malawi has one of the best netball teams in the world. Mary Waya was one of the country’s best players and was the former national team’s coach.
Born 25 May 1968, Mary Waya is a Malawian netball player and coach. Waya started playing international-level netball at age 14, and has played in more than 200 representative matches for Malawi. During that time she has competed in two World Netball Championships (1995 and 2007), three Commonwealth Games (1998, 2006 and 2010), and two World Netball Series (2009 and 2010).
Mary Waya came to international prominence during the 2007 World Championships in New Zealand, where the Malawian national team finished 5th, their highest ever placing. She remains the national team’s most high-profile player, and was chosen as the flag bearer for the Malawi team at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Listen here to her inspirational story as part of a BBC Radio 4 Interview (10:30/56:19)
Mwai Kumwenda Wins IWGA Athlete of the Year Award
Malawi netballer Mwai Kumwenda has been crowned Athlete of the Year by the International World Games Association (IWGA).
Kumwenda was one of 18 international athletes nominated for the IWGA award, from a cross-section of sports. She was crowned as the clear winner by an online poll.
Kumwenda, who plays professionally for Mainland Tactix in New Zealand, was awarded Player of the Tournament at the Netball World Cup SYDNEY 2015. Her win was backed by impressive statistics – 91% shots on target. With 321 goals in eight games, she was the only player to score over 300 goals.
The 26 year-old shooter was delighted with the win: “I feel so excited and honoured that so many people around the world have voted for me – I really appreciate it.”
Kumwenda first played netball aged 15, in her village in Malawi, she is now an international netball star who plays professionally for the Melbourne Vixens in Australia, and she recognises the progress she has made: “This is important for me because netball has been my life from a very young age. I would never have thought, in a million years, that I would win this award.
“This has been a journey – a journey of small steps, with each step dreaming of the next. It has been a journey of great support from all around me – family, friends, coaches, team-mates and most of all my fans around the world. This is also important because, to all those young girls and boys just starting out with the same dream, I would say ‘don’t give up, get the right people around you and keep working hard’.”
Mwai was nominated for the Award by the International Netball Federation. Clare Briegal, CEO, said: “This is great recognition for a superb role model in netball. As well as being a world class athlete, Mwai embodies women’s empowerment, and is a fantastic inspiration to so many people all around the world.”
Molly Rhone says: “Winning this Award is not only good news for Mwai but for her country, Malawi, and netball in general. Mwai has excelled through hard work and dedication to netball and is really deserving. She is a great role model for young girls and I congratulate her most heartily.”
The IWGA is an organisation recognised by the International Olympic Committee. Its principal aim is to develop the popularity of the sports governed by its 37 Member Federations, which includes the International Netball Federation, to improve their prominence through excellent sporting achievements, and to conserve all the traditional values of sport through The World Games, which take place every four years. The 10th World Games was held in Wroclaw, Poland, from 20-30 July, 2017.
Mwai wrote a recent blog for the Players Voice, where she talks about her journey. It is a truly inspirational read which you can read here.