Meet the netball loving sisters getting south west London girls into team sports

By Gaelle Legrand
February 11 2020, 16.37

Two former professional players are addressing inclusion of girls in team sports by coaching netball in south west London.

Jennifer Fields, former basketball player for England, and her sister Victoria Knights, a netball coach, set up Sisters n Sports in 2012 as an answer to this gender imbalance.

“With so many opportunities for boys in team sports like football and rugby, we wanted to give girls the same access to sport,” said Ms Knights.

A 2017 Youth Trust Sport study found that 35% of girls aged 14 to 16 said they did not feel confident taking part in sports.

On this issue, Ms Knights said: “The big problem is confidence and we are still at the beginning of our journey but we want sport to become a part of what they do just for the fact of enjoying it.”

For the two sisters, who train with more than 250 girls every week, sport is more than a side activity.

“We want them to see that it’s not all about the winning, and that it is important to stick with your sport,” said Mrs Fields.

“You see a lot of leagues for men, and men usually don’t play sport to stay fit but because they enjoy it,” she added, “We want girls to feel this too, feel valued and fall in love with their sport. For us, sport is part of who we are.”

Two sisters' mission to tackle the lack of girls in sports through netball coaching
MISSION: Victoria and Jennifer encourage girls to get active

A 2017 study from Sports England showed that women were less involved with sporting activities, such as team sports, racket sports or water sports, and prefer walking for leisure and fitness activities.

“Girls tend to go towards gymnastic and dance, and practice sports that are very individual,” said Ms Knights.

“Thanks to Sisters n Sports, they can experience team sports, which drives confidence, builds teamwork and is a good way to make friends,” she added.

While the netball company runs tournaments, the two sisters insist that the goal is to provide extra coaching for young girls who see it beneficial because they can train in a non-competitive environment.

“Our inspiration came from the teachers we had at school, and we now want to inspire children,” said Ms Fields.

“There’s a lot of pressure on teachers to do everything and it’s not an intention from the school to spend less time on this subject.

“They very often have to give results and schools lack both coaches and mentors in sports due to funding.”

She added: “We are here to support them and offer help to those girls who didn’t necessarily do as well in class.”

Sisters n Sport run netball classes in Putney and Kingston-upon-Thames on Saturday mornings and Elmbridge and Reigate on Sunday mornings. More details here.

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