My Passion With Rachel Crookes

Rachel Crookes, a partner at hlw Keeble Hawson and head of the law firm’s litigation and dispute resolution and debt recovery departments at its Leeds office, on her love of netball.

Rachel Crookes

I HAVE played netball competitively since I was 11 and still train and play in defence at least twice a week for my club Sheffield Concord, where I am secretary. Netball gives me a far greater buzz than running on a treadmill at a gym.

My interest in netball started when I joined Wisewood Comprehensive, Sheffield, thanks to the enthusiasm and commitment of two PE teachers. Their passion for the game was infectious and they motivated us – resulting in a highly successful school team that dominated the Sheffield school leagues for several years.

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From school I went on to Sheffield College for sixth form where I continued to play the game. We were runners-up twice in the National Colleges Tournament. That kind of success does spur you on – particularly if you are a competitive person, as I am.

I played for the South Yorkshire county team from U16 through to senior level and continued playing at Hull University – ending up as president of the university’s netball club.

I like all sport and will try my hand at anything, but what I particularly love about netball is the team element, the social side and the relationships I have developed and kept over the years. Netball is a great leveller and can be played and enjoyed by women from all walks of life and all ages. The founders of our club are women in their fifties and they can run rings around many of us!

You don’t need fancy, expensive equipment to play netball either – just shorts, trainers and a ball. Of course you need a court and some nets and Sheffield is very fortunate to have excellent facilities for netball. I am lucky enough to train and play at the English Institute of Sport which is a fantastic venue (and where Jessica Ennis does much of her training).

We read and hear a lot in the media about obesity as well as negative body image issues among young women. So many young girls give up team sport in their teenage years because it doesn’t seem feminine or cool to be running around in your shorts. However, I believe that netball can help to give girls confidence, equips them with life skills and enables them to forge lasting friendships.

I know that it’s probably a bit of a cliché to say that the team building element of sport prepares you for work, but it is true. Being able to demonstrate that you are a reliable team player is invaluable in most careers.

I think that if young women can be part of a successful team or club then they are more likely to be motivated and stay with the sport. Sheffield has very strong junior sections within its netball clubs so there is terrific support and encouragement for teenage girls to stick with the game.