Welcome to our series of #KentGirlsCan blogs, where we will be sharing inspiring stories of women and girls from around Kent who are getting active and doing their thing, no matter what anyone else thinks. Today we’re featuring Fusion Netball, a project in Maidstone that has helped more than 150 women and girls get involved in the sport.

In 2016, as part of our #KentGirlsCan campaign we visited Back to Netball sessions in Maidstone where local women who used to play were encouraged to return to the sport in a welcoming and informal environment. Having already moved from its original venue to a bigger one due to demand, some women were considering increasing their commitment by creating teams and entering local leagues.

Several months on, and a different kind of session, delivered at New Line Learning Academy in Loose, was now taking place when Kent Sport visited in April 2017. The women were now split into teams and competing against each other, receiving coaching and guidance on the rules, whilst encouraging each other during open play. From the first sessions, three teams have formed and recently competed in local summer and winter leagues and this season a further three teams are also due to enter local leagues. That’s over 50 women now playing netball competitively!

Fusion Netball Maidstone 4

Heather, one lady who hadn’t played since she was 12 or 13, was full of praise saying that many of the women now “live for their Wednesdays”.  Being involved in a team sport, she said, there was a feeling that “you don’t want to let anyone down, so you attend”.  This was evident as some injured players still turned up to training and offered encouragement on the sidelines.

Aimee Bartlett, Community Development Officer from Fusion Healthy Living Centre in Park Wood, initially started the sessions two years ago with the help of a Kent Sport grant. Like so many, she hadn’t played netball since leaving school but now a total of 171 ladies, aged between 14-74, have taken part. Aimee commented, “I could see there was a gap to be filled for women who wanted to get back into the sport but weren’t ready to jump into competitive league games. Developing confidence has been the key. We wanted to make it accessible to all ages, abilities shapes and sizes.”  Their tagline “wobbly bits welcome” made many realise they should give it a try. “Once they’d been reassured and come along to that first session, they realised they were worthy of playing and have all surprised themselves at how quickly they have picked the skills back up.”

As the focus switches to those teams competing in leagues, Back to Netball sessions for now are on hold until at least 2018. Kent Sport congratulates all involved, especially Aimee and Stephanie Edwards (coach), and wishes the teams taking their first steps in competitive netball the very best of luck.

If you’re interested in getting involved in netball, visit the England Netball website for more information at www.englandnetball.co.uk/my-game.