September is over and the club netball season is now in full flow across Wales. However, for many avid netballers, the season never finished as summer leagues took place across the nation. One of these summer leagues was the inaugural Central South Social League.

Based in Y Pant School, Pontyclun, Rhondda Cynon Taff, the Central South Social League was open to clubs and players from across Welsh Netball’s Central South region, encompassing RCT, Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan, Merthyr Tydfil and Bridgend counties. Clubs could choose to enter teams, or alternatively, interested players could sign up and be placed into a team.

The league featured ten teams from across the region and took place over the midsummer months, finishing in early August. MJ Movers were crowned champions with a 100% win record in nine matches. There was a tense battle for the runners-up spot between Ogmore Ladies and Thunder Bolts, with the former coming second on 35 points as opposed to the Bolts’ 34. Although matches themselves were fiercely competitive affairs, the emphasis of the league was on enjoyment and interaction and women from a whole range of backgrounds came together to share in a love of netball.

One of the players in the Central South Social League was Kate. Kate had played netball during her school years and into her university studies. She hadn’t played for 13 years but was intrigued by the advert for the Central South Social League.

“I always played netball in school and university and continued for a team until about 13 years ago. Family life took over and I decided to get back into it about a year ago but with injuries and timing it never really happened. I saw the advert for the summer social league on Facebook and decided to go for it. The fact that I could join independently and get put into a mixed team was great.”

Despite some initial nerves about getting back into the game, Kate was soon into her stride as the league began.

“As the start date approached I started to have doubts about my fitness and the level of competition – but how wrong was I? I absolutely loved it. We had a great game, and everyone was really friendly and supportive. I ached like mad the next few days but over the last 6 weeks I have definitely improved fitness wise and have made lots of new friends too.”

Beyond the benefits to the players in the league, there were also opportunities for umpires to gain more experience and officiate in a different environment. Leigh was one of the league’s umpires and spoke fondly of her experience.

“It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to umpire in the Central South Social League. Having only umpired in a training and junior environment beforehand, it provided a supportive platform to move into umpiring at senior level [it] has really helped to increase my confidence and ability as a new and aspiring umpire.”

The Central South Summer League was made possible by league co-ordinator, Gemma Jones. Gemma worked hard to get the league up and running and spoke of the impact the league had on participants.

“The Central South Social league was the ideal way to encourage and support women back into netball. It was a friendly, inviting and an inclusive environment which was accessible for all abilities. Our aim was to encourage women back into netball, get fit, have fun and most importantly enjoy netball once again.

“As netball is one of the fastest growing sport for women in the UK, Central South Social League has helped women to meet new people, gain their confidence and developed their ability to play netball again.”

Gemma also reflected on how she personally enjoyed serving as the league’s co-ordinator.

“From being the Central South Social Co-ordinator, I’ve enjoyed and valued the opportunity of seeing women playing netball, progressing as players and rekindling their relationships with old school friends. Not only that, but it has also had an impact on women’s mental health and well-being, with the league having been an active and supportive community.”

There is plenty of netball to come in the 2018/19 season, but it will be great to see how the Central South Social League gets on in its second year in Summer 2019 as year-round netball goes from strength to strength in Wales.

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