Chichester Netball Club (CNC) offers players of all abilities the chance to train and even compete in local netball matches. The club is also a supportive community that extends far beyond the netball court, having supported the mental wellbeing and physical fitness of members during lockdown.
In 2017, PE teacher Claire Cobden saw a real gap in Chichester’s sports scene – a netball-club-shaped gap. This is somewhat surprising; with girls in schools all around Chichester playing netball, it only seems right to give the girls more time to play outside of school hours. What’s more, many of us have not had the chance to play netball since our school days, despite it being a fun, social way to keep fit.
As both a netball fanatic and trained Level 2 coach, the answer was obvious to Claire. “I decided,” said Claire, “to take matters into my own hands.” This, of course, took shape in Claire’s founding of Chichester Netball Club, or CNC, which was initially just an ‘under 13’s’ session. An adult session was soon created after the club’s popularity skyrocketed. “Before I knew it,” Claire recalls “parents of girls in other year groups started to ask about joining.”
Now, the club is thriving. “It went from 40 members in September 2017 to now, 170 junior members and 25 adults,” said Claire. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join CNC, with friendly matches and training on offer alongside the opportunity to compete against other teams.
Friendly training sessions run on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for 7 year olds up to adults. Teams train at the Chichester Racquets and Fitness Club in the summer and head to the sports hall at Bishop Luffa School in the colder months. Claire teaches the majority of the training sessions herself and has plans to start two more junior sessions in January 2022, including sessions for primary school children.
While the junior girls are encouraged to compete, with Claire taking great care to book appropriate level matches for the girls, competing is by no means compulsory. Adults can choose just to train or they can play in the Chichester Netball League when spaces open up.
Chichester Netball Club competes in the Chichester Netball League, playing against netball teams from the University of Chichester, Chichester College and ladies’ netball teams from Midhurst and Duncton.
Chichester Netball Club proudly has three adult ladies teams playing in the Chichester Netball League: CNC Lightning, CNC Thunder and CNC Hurricane. As their names suggest, the Chichester teams are taking the league by storm, with CNC Lightning playing in the Premier League and both CNC Thunder and Hurricane playing in the first division.
CNC Lightning is currently (week 8) top of the Premier League leader board, storming through their games thanks to their diligent practice, with Claire herself playing Centre for the team- Go Lightning! League games take place every Thursday, with training for adults on Mondays at 8pm.
Unsurprisingly, the CNC coaches sometimes get tired with all this running around. But fear not, Claire has fantastic backup. Amazingly, Claire organises sessions with players from the England netball team, The Vitality Roses. In November 2021, Sasha Corbin, who used to play Centre and Wing Attack for the England team, coached two sessions for the CNC junior teams. Other England players have also led sessions for The Club, such as Laura Malcolm, Eleanor Cardwell and Chartie Curtis.
Sasha left feedback for the CNC girls and lead a Q & A in which the girls listened intently. These sessions leave Claire and all the girls with huge grins. Claire aims to book at least one of these sessions a term and even takes the girls on trips to watch Superleague matches, with tickets for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham already booked!
CNC is far more than a Club, it has flourished into a friendly community of girls and ladies who love training, coaching and playing together. The Covid-19 pandemics inevitably halted training and matches, and everyone missed seeing each other.
Claire did not let this dampen her spirits, nor the club’s. “I ran weekly fitness zoom sessions”, Claire responded to the dreaded lockdown question. “The girls could see each other, chat to each other but also keep up their fitness.” These were a huge success, reconnecting people at an isolating time and keeping them active when it was needed most. “We played music, jumped around our living rooms and had fun. The girls said how they loved doing the sessions,” said Claire.
The CNC community stretches beyond the netball court, as members take part in socials and fundraisers throughout the year, such as Fancy-Dress sessions and family quizzes online. The Club raised a jaw-dropping £457 for Children in Need 2021. CNC also supports Chestnut Tree House, Cancer Research and Comic Relief.
Claire said the thing she is most proud of is “the community I have built. All CNC members and their families are so supportive and are proud to wear their CNC kit.” With so many CNC teams, it’s impossible to miss a flash of blue and white in tournaments and matches.
Excitingly, Claire is starting two more junior sessions in January 2022. If you are interested in enrolling your child, drop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each session costs just £6.50 for kids and £6 for adults, to cover the cost of hiring the courts and equipment. CNC is always looking for sponsorship to help with equipment, kit and the like and would also love to have branded gazebos and signs to rightfully boast the Chichester Netball Club. Drop Claire an email if you are interested in playing or if you can help the CNC community – she’s always up for a chat! All images in this story are © Helen Cawte Photography.