When it comes to material things, Queen Mary will never be mistaken for Loughborough or Bath or a whole host of other universities. But whilst we may not have the state of the art facilities and deep pockets, we don’t lack in phenomenally driven people who are willing to commit most of their time and energy to their club. Now, whether you’re either playing for or running a team, life can be a struggle when you’re involved in sport at this university. But the struggle can also be massively rewarding and worthwhile. When it all comes together, the incredible people involved in QM teams can create very special moments that will live with you forever. That’s the joy of university sport, there is nothing like it. Take Queen Mary Netball. Their rise to Club of the Year from disappointment merely two years ago is one of those moments, engineered by outstanding individuals.
The Netball model shows how sporting success can be achieved at this university. Our hope is that you see this article as an opportunity; a useful inside view at how QMN turned last year into such a success. Maybe you’ll want to steal a few ideas on how to further improve your club. Maybe you’ll be inspired to go the extra mile, within or outside of your sport. Or perhaps you will simply further appreciate the remarkable things students are doing in the university sports department.
It starts at the bottom. With a three-figure membership, Queen Mary Netball come close to the biggest club on campus. Think about that for a second. It’s pretty incredible for a sport that is, even at the highest level, just about semi-professional. QMN have created this popularity by fully embracing those who want to play Netball competitively as well as those who are interested in playing more socially. This is a difficult task and impressive achievement when budget restraints are considered.
With this large pool of potential candidates, club elections are strongly contested, with recent results suggesting they produce a high-quality committee. The large member base also means that there’s a lot of people holding club officials accountable. Through this, a clear sense of responsibility is felt by the committee. At such a big club, you have to compete for everything, the people that get a committee role have the responsibility to do it well. The impressive leadership from last year’s president Deanna Lyn Cook harnessed this enthusiasm and talent into an unstoppable machine.
This membership base is a diversely talented pool from which to find an exceptional committee. When you look more closely, it’s hard to deny that QMN have been blessed with incredible people in the right places for the last number of years. It’s a boon that members are effectively encouraged to take accountability and run for these positions. Committee roles can be unglamorous, underappreciated and oftentimes neglected, but this Netball club seems to have a conveyor belt for outstanding individuals. Can you put the outstanding group assembled on this committee down to luck? Perhaps, but you make your own luck. And with last year’s Vice President Charlotte Catchpole assuming the role of president, with the experience of last year and new ideas for this season, don’t bet on anything but continued excellence.
The nature of QMN’s committee makes it an enticing prospect for applicants. The concise structure allows a defined role that won’t overwhelm candidates. Efficient delegation from Deanna Lyn Cook offered relative autonomy last year, allowing the ability to take the initiative and enact change. This has allowed committee members, including but not specifically, Kitty Gardener and Hannah Gaffey – who’s work we shall focus on momentarily – the freedom to set their own targeted goals and work inventively to accomplish them. Without such driven and accountable individuals on the committee, it’s difficult for any club to progress.
You can’t talk QMN and not mention charity work.
We all know that charity work it is rewarding and worthwhile. But it’s hard. Especially within a club, where it involves large scale organisation and relentless drive to maintain enthusiasm. Part of the difficulty can be determining one cause more deserving than others. Whilst all are equally worthy, often identifying one partner charity can enable access to a great deal of assistance and give charity work clear direction. This is the case for Netball who partnered with Coppafeel a few years ago. Support and a clear focus allows QMN to decisively push towards raising money for a great cause.
Obviously, this is still no easy task. Here we come back to Kitty Gardener and Hannah Gaffey. At the beginning of last year, they set a target to raise £500. They eventually raised around £3000 – primarily through students – and we know how little spending money students in London have. It’s hard to portray how impressive this is. Above the finances though, the charity netball tournament organised and officiated by QMN brought sports teams together in a way that only Merger Cup seems capable. While it may not have had quite such a large impact on campus generally it still has a far larger sports driven impact than has been seen by anything else for some time.
The work wasn’t limited to one event. A change bucket was seen at all socials through the year, along with a number of other drives:
- ‘Lets Get Quizzical’ and ‘12 Days of Titmas’ were nominated for RAG event of the year
- There were end of season RAG awards for Hannah Gaffey and the Uni boob team as recognition for their outstanding efforts.
- Alongside the work with Coppafeel, QMN also worked with PlayStopPause to bring consent week to Queen Mary.
- Also had a collection for sanitary products to donate to Bloody Good Period who provide menstrual supplies to asylum seekers, refugees & those who can’t afford them.
Having an impact outside of their sphere was a huge factor in Netball winning Club of the Year at the Queen Mary Club Sports Awards. The incredible work of the Netball charity team has set a standard that all clubs should look to follow.
On the Court
QMN had a relatively successful season competitively. For a start, none of their four competition teams were relegated. As far as start’s go, that’s a good one. Flux with squads – obviously, most students are only eligible for the duration of their three-year course – makes mere maintenance a difficulty for a lot of teams. Overcoming these difficulties, QMN’s teams were commended for their cohesion by rivals and umpires. The Second Team had a particularly great year as they secured promotion to the South Eastern 6B division. It’s difficult to highlight individuals in such a deep group but Jessica Enemokwu, coming into the First Team, made a difference with mean defence. Further, the play of Tanya Tan fuelled QMN’s Second Team with amazing work ethic, contributing to a great group effort that pushed the side to their promotion. Anyone who knows her will be aware of her dedication and the impact such drive can have. The success of Introducing fitness training sessions was apparent across the squad last term. This programme has been expanded for the coming season, so it’s natural to expect even greater performances throughout.
The reward for all the hard work put in by QMN came at the QM Sports Awards. It is the target of every club to win Club of the Year, the ultimate recognition from Queen Mary of the season efforts. For some clubs it is a distant dream, for others an expectation. For QM Netball, it became the season expectation rather early on in the process.
Such was the impressive nature of their season that, on awards night, it seemed like a forgone conclusion. Netball had eclipsed their competitors, going from 2017 also rans to 2018 Goliaths. It cannot have come as a surprise to many when the announcement came. At least for those who were still sober enough to understand what was happening. As new president Charlotte describes, “it was amazing to get the recognition for the club and committee, it was great to feel like our hard work had amounted to something and that the SU and other students appreciated how far we’d come.” You have to hand it to them; no other team deserved the prize more than QMN.
This isn’t to say they have perfected ‘the sports club’ at QM. As with every QM sports club, there is area for improvement. New president Charlotte has identified on court performance as the key target area for the coming season. 2018 sees a complete withdrawal from LUSL competition to focus on their BUCs commitments and with this comes an expectation that all four performance teams will be competing at the top of their divisions. January re-trials to create a sense of year-round competition for squad places highlight their desire to push forward as a performance club. The excellent club structure off the court allows for this greater devotion of resources to performance, but the results are as yet unknown on the court. The coming season will be a measuring stick, and the increased pressure to perform will bring with it a different set of challenges.
Striking the balance between participation and performance will require excellent strategy and leadership. Whilst it has been made clear that performance will be the emphasis, the impressive size of the club could pose problems as making all members feel valued could be difficult. Perhaps for Netball that balance has been found though, as they are undoubtedly a very close but inclusive social unit. The self-styled ‘biggest girl gang on campus’ strive to empower women through Netball, and every bit of evidence suggests they are doing exactly that.
So now you know more about QMN, why not get yourself and some mates down to Mile End Park Leisure Centre on a Wednesday to watch? We’ll certainly be watching here at Front Runners!
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