In the final edition of a series of articles highlighting Welsh Netball’s meteoric growth to over 10,000 members, we look at one of South East Wales’ fastest growing clubs, Gilfach Netball Club from Caerphilly County Borough.

Kirsty McColl and Rachel James had no set plan when they sought to start a netball club. They simply wanted to give something back to their community through netball. Their first session literally had one child turn up!

“To think where we are now is just unbelievable really,” said McColl, Gilfach NC’s head coach and Chairperson.

“From that very first session we have worked so hard and welcomed so many committed players, coaches, parents, team managers, sponsors and committee members. The simple answer to why we are successful, is because of them. We are beyond lucky to have so many volunteers on board who are as passionate about the club as we are. We always say: yes it was our club to begin with, but now it is everyone’s.”

As with netball communities across Wales, at Gilfach, family is everything. At Gilfach offering something for the entire family, across generations, is key to the club’s success and popularity.

McColl said: “Gilfach Netball is a club that the whole family are part of because it offers social and community based activities with a family ethos. It offers a great balance between development and family fun.

“We really do believe that it’s more than just a netball club. We run regular family events such as: bingo, quiz nights, Halloween and Christmas parties and presentation evenings. We also take our players trampolining, to Celtic Dragon matches and UV discos to name just a few! Feedback from parents has been great – it has shown us that as coaches we are committed, passionate and approachable, which is lovely to hear.”

Gilfach NC certainly offers its players a range of activities away from netball, but the club has also enjoyed a lot of success of the court as well.

McColl said: “We cater for those players who want a friendly and relaxed hour of fun and fitness and no more. However, we also identify talent from a young age and have a clear pathway for the development of individual players.

“The professionalism and competitiveness of the club has produced LA Hub, Area and Talent Centre players. We also have an Under 12 National Competitions title. We have also had feedback from a fellow coach and PE Teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni that we have helped to strengthen the Valleys school teams.

Feedback and honest communication is key for the development of any netball player, and Gilfach NC’s coaches are commited to networking together to support the growth and development of their young netballers.

McColl said: “We’ve worked hard to a create a clear pathway and each year we involve the whole committee and team of coaches to feedback. We spend a lot of time communicating and think that outsiders would be shocked with the number of group chats that we have surrounding netball. So much goes on behind the scenes as well as in training and on court.

“One thing that we love is what we offer young players in terms of coaching. We have been lucky to receive grants from Caerphilly Sport and use this to offer courses to support the role of assistant coaches. We find that young players respond to these so well and its fantastic to think these are the future coaches of what we set up.,”

Gilfach NC’s exploits have certainly not gone unnoticed. They have been nominated for a range of local accolades, appearing regularly in the Caerphilly Observer newspaper.

McColl explained: “We thought things couldn’t better. We’ve been very lucky to be shortlisted for a few years for club of the year across all sports, but this year we won together volunteers of the year. So now to know this we are just so thrilled.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has had a profound impact onf netball communties across the country, with Gilfach being no exception. However, the club has been proactive in supporting its members through this unprecedented time.

McColl said: “Personally, I think it was clear during the lockdown that we do go that extra mile. We have had weekly zoom quizzes with each team and also set mini challenges. We really care about one another and anyone that joins is automatically welcomed into that family. Plus, we joke that we never say no, so any friendly, tournament, competition – Gilfach are there!”

Welsh Netball would like to thank the volunteers at Gilfach Netball Club for all that they do to provide sporting and social opportunities to women and girls in their part of the the South Wales Valleys. The club has achieved so much on and off the court and we are certain that they will be on to further success in the not too distant future!