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By Milly McEvoy
Blackpool netball star Eleanor Cardwell doesn’t have to look far to see she is inspiring the next generation.
Cardwell combines teaching nursery and primary school children full-time with her all-conquering netball career, going undefeated with champions Manchester Thunder in the Vitality Netball Superleague this season.
And now, the 27-year-old shooter will be spending her summer representing Team England at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
“Being at the forefront of driving the next generation and getting everyone to get involved in netball is pretty remarkable to be a part of,” the goal attack said.
“I teach and just having me as that presence around, there are young boys now wanting to get involved in netball at school.
“Just me being there is driving them to want to be a part of the sport, so having all these role models around me and everyone being together and showing how strong and what amazing athletes everybody is and that everyone deserves to be a part of netball.
“I think it's going to be great to broadcast our sport to everyone out there and get everyone involved in it.
“This week I had a really heartwarming experience, they were doing a bit of a lesson about what job you want to do.
“And one young boy who is always asking me questions about netball, he's always really interested in my matches, he just came up to me and said ‘Miss, I really want to be a professional netball player. I need to find a club who will let me play’.
“So I got on Instagram straightaway because there was someone I knew and I was like, ‘this is the club you need to go to’.
“But that little change there that a boy wants to be a professional netball player is incredible. It's just a testament to all the hard work that everyone's been doing in England Netball and trying to get netball out there.
“I can definitely see the difference between it's not only girls now, it's definitely boys too wanting to get involved in this amazing sport.”
With the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games set to inspire people and communities across the country this summer, Cardwell hopes sharing her story will give others motivation to get involved in sport and turn their dreams into reality.
Cardwell missed out on selection for the England team that went to the Gold Coast in 2018, admitting that not being named in the squad left her devastated.
Tears of disappointment were swapped for sobs of joy as her friends claimed Commonwealth Games gold.
And the waterworks were flowing again as she was selected for her first Games as part of Team England’s 12-strong squad.
This summer, Team England, supported by National Lottery funding, will comprise of over 400 athletes in total, and having secured her place on the squad, Cardwell is looking to capitalise on the once in a lifetime opportunity for medal success in her home country.
She added: “I was heartbroken last time, so to be a part of it this time is even better because I know that I have put in everything that I can to get into this Games. I'm actually pretty proud of where I've come from, from where I was four years ago.
“I was teaching when I got the call so I had to get somebody to cover me really quickly.
“And she [Jess Thirlby, England head coach] said, ‘are you free for a call now?’ So I had to run into my car and I had very limited time. She told me the news and I just started crying instantly and then I had to quickly dry my eyes and keep teaching.
“I think the kids are going to go crazy [when I tell them] they are all obsessed with netball, we might have a little party.
“They will be very, very happy for me because they have seen how hard it has been for me this season trying to train full time and work full time, so they'll just be really happy for me and I can't wait to tell them all.”
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