Just over a week ago, we made our toughest decision in three years to suspend all regular netball training across Yorkshire.
Like most of the UK, we had been watching how the Government, health authorities and those with services similar to ours - such as England Netball - were responding to the unfolding crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. As the situation rapidly changed, long-term planning was clearly no longer an option and we switched our decision making to a 'day by day' approach.Come March 17, with many of our facility providers closing their doors and concerns for the virus's impact increasing, it became obvious that bringing our services to a halt was the safest option for our athletes, staff and anyone else in our community.
To say we are devastated does not even begin to explain how we feel having had to take this step. Our services are relied upon by so many aspiring young women and girls (boys too!) - over 500 at the last count - and we know our decision has an impact a growing number of people across Yorkshire. Although sometimes a decision isn't yours alone to make and it was clearly the right thing to do for everyone's safety; and certainly something our community agrees with, judging by the feedback we have received these past few days.
Now, you might think winding up 29 individual netball training sessions - that's over 40 hours of training every week - delivered by 20-plus coaches to over 500 athletes may free up some time, but we've barely had a spare moment since! For starters, finding a way to continue supporting our community became the number one objective and numerous Zoom meetings later, our team had a clear plan for each of our Academy, Hubs and Mini Netball groups of athletes to continue their training over the coming weeks, all be it remotely. Coaches have worked quickly to produce Athlete Packs including technical and physical guidance, and tips on well-being, relevant to each athlete groups and these have since been sent to all Rhinos athletes from the u13 age group upwards. Our Minis coaches are also working on videos which will become available to our junior athletes over the weekend, so they can keep up with their netball activity.
Of course, the support stretches beyond our athletes with coaches also in need of assistance during this time. While we cannot meet in the flesh, we are able to use technology for catch-ups and have stepped up the frequency of our staff meetings to ensure everyone is aligned on any new initiatives being rolled out. It is also a great time to begin planning for next season which, as hard as it seems right now, will soon be upon us - and we'll need to be ready, what with the small matter of the Superleague to attend to!
While everything we are doing right now helps with the ongoing fitness and wellbeing of our Rhinos family,it cannot compensate for the lack of 'togetherness' that results from our current isolation. Humans are a social lot, never mind the fact that sport is well-known for its community aspect, and the feeling of comradery and team spirit it brings. While we cannot congregate in person, it is more important than ever we remain in touch with one another using whatever means we can - whether that be a group chat, a 1:1 phone call with a coach, or through Q&A sessions on social media platforms. We will continue to provide a forum for athletes, parents, and coaches to keep in contact with Rhinos throughout this difficult time. Yes, the shutters may be down at each of our many training facilities, although the Leeds Rhinos Netball community remains very much OPEN to all.