Consett women reap health benefits of netball

Health Reporter Helen Rae speaks to a team of ladies from the North East who are reaping the many benefits of playing netball

Julie Donnelly with daughters Eve, left and Faye, play netball together with Consett Steelers
Julie Donnelly with daughters Eve, left and Faye, play netball together with Consett Steelers

It can be difficult to find a team sport that is open to all ages and offers the health and fitness benefits you crave.

But a group of women in the North East are keeping active and enjoying success through their local Back to Netball club in County Durham.

Consett Steelers Netball Club meets every Monday evening in Belle Vue Leisure and Arts Centre in Consett where women of all ages enjoy an hour’s fitness class, concentrating on core work, strength and conditioning with netball skills and drills, followed by an hour of netball training.

The group started life as a partnership between Health Improvement Though Sport (HITS) and England Netball’s Back to Netball scheme, evolving into Consett Steelers Netball Club.

The women are part of the Durham City Netball League, competing every Thursday night against 13 teams of ladies, who similarly have decided to get into the sport after “time out” from activity, by joining their local Back to Netball groups.

Participants include full-time mothers and professionals who are keen to return to a sport they loved when at school.

Tracey Hutchinson, 35, of Consett, County Durham, is a police officer and fitness trainer and says she couldn’t imagine her life without the netball club. She said: “We started as a group of girls who hadn’t played netball since school, now we can’t stop playing!

“Netball is part of my life and I can’t imagine not playing.

“I do classes and go running, but it is the team-feeling I like. The girls are great and they are all friendly so we have a good bond. We socialise together too and I look forward to training on a Monday and playing in matches on a Thursday.”

Team captain Catherine Ridley, 38, of Blackhill, Consett, said: “I love team games, it is far more motivational than exercising on your own. I love the support and there’s a good bunch of girls here who take part and we have fun.”

Females aged 15 and upwards can go along and some mothers and daughters take part together.

Both Tracey and Catherine play with their sisters. Each hour is optional so you can attend the first exercise hour or just the netball training session that follows.

Tracey’s sister, Karen Mitcheson, 38, of Consett, said: “It’s fantastic that we have sisters playing together and mothers and daughters.

“It is nice to spend that time together as we keep fit, but we have the social side as well.”

Julie Donnelly, 44, a teaching assistant of Blackhill, Consett, plays with her teenage daughters, Faye, 15, and Eve, 17.

“The girls played netball for another team since they were 11 years old and I started playing with Back To Netball in April last year, which is now Steelers,” explained Julie. “The girls enticed me to come along and play in a tournament as they were short. I really enjoyed it and went back again.

“My daughters followed me to the group as they wanted some extra training. They really liked the sociable and welcoming group of women and they get a lot out of it.

“It is wonderful and lovely to be part of this with my daughters. Getting fit and socialising with the girls is something I hope will continue for a long time.”

Netball is a popular sport that builds up health and fitness levels through regular training sessions and competitive matches.

Sarah Barsby, 15, also of Consett, encouraged her mum to take part in the activity as she wanted to do a sport that they could enjoy together.

“She was thinking about coming and I said, ‘If you don’t go now you never will’,” explained Sarah. “She came along and has got a lot more out of it than I thought she would.

“I enjoy having her there. We click when we are on the pitch and just know where the other is going to go.”

Her mum Kath, 48, added: “It is lovely that we play netball together as we have the same group of friends to share. The fitness aspect is great too, as it is all ages there which is really nice.

“Sarah plays netball for various teams and kept saying I should give it a try. I had watched her playing for a long time and wanted to get fit so I joined in January. Some of Sarah’s friends have started too and it is a great atmosphere with all ages.”

HITS through Move4Life established and funded the Consett group until this year with the coach and the players now sustaining the sessions themselves.

HITS also runs a similar group in partnership with Back to Netball at the Louisa Centre in Stanley with over 40 lwomen.

If you are interested in joining the Consett or Stanley netball groups call Chloe Lambert at HITS on 01207 218505. If you would like more information on Back to Netball across the Durham region contact Fiona Johnson on 07809 375 829 or email


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