After watching a game of goalball at the Copper Box Arena during the London Olympics in 2012, London Pulse Chief Executive Officer and Head Coach Samantha Bird was inspired to bring netball to the blind and visually impaired community.
Flash forward to 2020 and, even in the midst of global pandemic, the club and MetroBlindSport are about to bring netball to blind and visually impaired athletes in London when community sport is cleared to return.
Ms Bird said she wanted to use her experience in the sport she loves to ensure everyone has the ability to play.
“We decided to use the time to plan… and we are one of the first in the country, if not the first, to develop a netball game [for blind and visually impaired athletes],” she said.
“[Pulse’s] home is the Copper Box Arena and at the Olympics in 2012 goalball was played in the Copper Box Arena. I was keen to keep developing that, and there hasn’t been the legacy of goalball at the Copper Box for a number of reasons. I don’t know much about goalball but I know a lot about netball,” she said.
“So we have developed a ball called a Jangle Ball, which is slightly lighter and with a bell inside, and started to train our coaches to deliver netball sessions to these athletes.
“The game will be slightly adapted but we didn’t want the game to be different. It is netball for visually impaired athletes.
“We are going to start delivering these sessions when community netball comes back.”
Since taking over as CEO in March, Ms Bird has been on a mission to connect with her community across London and link the club to businesses and partners.
The club also actively supports players from low socio-economic areas through free training sessions and assistance.
Ms Bird said the club was dedicated to serving London and be representative of the people who live there.
“For us, the community is important… we are diverse as a team and we want to encourage the diverse population to play netball,” she said.
“That is all well and good but if you charge too much, if there’s not enough resources or they don’t have trainers, they can’t play. So it is important to engage those communities.”
On the London Pulse website, an entire section is dedicated to the club’s community mission.
“We are committed to being part of the school and wider community, covering 32 London boroughs – extending our skills and experience to offer netball pathway coaching programmes, virtual camps, pathway trials, inspirational netball tours, annual corporate cup, disability and visually impaired netball, netball for the elderly and walking netball in as many parts of the city as possible,” the page reads.
“Commitment to developing netball in the local community is fundamental to the London Pulse’s values ethos and commitment. Our development programmes and schools’ programmes will be designed to guarantee that all children and young people have the opportunity to play netball within London.”