We all face the same issues – Fran Williams welcomes NETBALLHer campaign

England defender Fran Williams has stressed the importance of recognising that “everyone needs support” following the launch of England Netball’s new “NETBALLHer” campaign for elite and grassroots players.

The aim is to educate women and girls of all abilities about female health across all ages and normalise topics of conversation around the female body, including the menstrual cycle, menopause and wearing the correct sports bra among others.

Working alongside female health experts WellHQ, the campaign also aims to provide education and advice to coaches, staff, officials and volunteers within the netball community to provide a greater understanding.

England and Loughborough Lightning’s Williams praised the project, emphasising that female health is a shared experience between elite and grassroots netballers.

“These are all issues whether you’re the top netballer in the country or you’re someone that just wants to play once a week for fun socially, we’re all going to face these same issues,” Williams told the PA news agency.

“It’s something that unites us and shows it’s something that we’re all facing and it creates that community feel around it, but everyone needs support.

“While [England] might be more tailored to specifics performing at that elite level rather than for other people on a more day-to-day basis, it’s still relevant for everyone.

“Us as Roses, we’re going to be getting some bra fittings and more education around wearing the right sports bra, education sessions on pelvic health – which is something we really don’t know that much about – so everyone’s getting impacted.”

Williams added that elite and grassroots netballers are
Williams added that elite and grassroots netballers are ‘all going to face these same issues’ (Bradley Collyer/PA)

One area the campaign explores is working to reduce the number of dropouts in sport and figures provided by NETBALLHer found that 69 per cent of women take a break from playing netball.

They also reported that 41 per cent of teenage girls step back or drop out of playing the sport entirely, but Williams is hopeful the campaign is able to break down those potential barriers.

She added: “The dropout of girls around that teenage year are maybe body-conscious or struggling to control symptoms that they’re going through during puberty so hopefully we want to be breaking down any of these potential barriers stopping girls from continuing in sport.

“I was lucky, coming through the pathway I’ve been surrounded by other people who were really ambitious in sport and really competitive that stayed within the game.

“But I notice more now as I go into schools and clubs and coach, as I do appearances as an elite player, that’s now where I can see disengagement with some of the girls around maybe feeling conscious to participate in sport and really get stuck in in the way I know I enjoyed when I was at school.

“You just don’t really want those kind of things getting in the way of that.”

The project launches at a time when more open discussions are happening about female health in sport.

Recently Manchester City Women and the Irish Women’s rugby union side switched from white shorts to darker colours to ease anxiety around periods, while Dina Asher-Smith earned praise last year for speaking up about how her period had affected her performance at the European Championships.

“I think it’s really relevant at the moment with a big push going across all sports on the women’s side,” Williams added.

“It just fits really nicely with some of the other things that are going on and I think netball are really proud and unapologetic to say we’re a female-dominated sport, therefore if we can’t be doing this well, then who can?

“So we need to be leading the way on supporting our members, our players and those who want to participate in our game.”