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Fast5 All Stars Provides Thrilling Day for Student Sarah Abbotts

Sarah Abbotts, a final year Undergraduate Sports Therapist at the University of Gloucestershire, was recently invited to travel with the Severn Stars Fast5 All Star Netball Team to offer her Sports Therapy skills at the British Fast5 All-Stars Tournament. Sarah joined the Severn Stars at the Copperbox Arena in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, and was able to support Peter Thain, BSc Sports Therapy Course Leader at Birmingham City University, on the day.

Having discovered a love of netball during her twelve years living in New Zealand and year in Australia, Sarah is now a keen netball player herself and is a member of her local team in Cirencester, so she has a good understanding of the game and the nature of injuries that can occur.

Over the past three years, following an application and interview process, Sarah has been putting this knowledge and experience to good use with the Severn Stars. She has actually been with the squad since the beginning of their franchise, working with former international netball players and now current Severn Stars coaches, Mo’onia Gerrard and Pamela Cookey, in the first year and with Head Coach Sam Bird since then.

For the last two seasons, she has been volunteering with the team under the supervision of team Physiotherapist, Ani Cox. Sarah has observed and assisted Ani in performing pre-season screening and works with the players to try and minimise the risk of injury throughout the season, as well as assisting players when injuries arise. She also provides pre and post training/match massage for the players, and courtside first aid at training and matches.

Sarah has a passion for netball, so the atmosphere of being at live matches while also offering her skills to support at the British Fast5 All-Stars Tournament made this a very exciting day.

Sarah got in touch to tell us about her experience at the tournament and here’s what she had to say:

‘Fast5 netball is a very different game; it’s like the 20/20 of the cricket world, but with a LOT more pizazz! It reminded me of Baseball or Basketball in America, with big screens above the court filming the audience for dance cams and ‘floss’ (a popular dance move) cams. Players ran on to court through a tunnel, with pyrotechnic displays, loud music, lights and smoke. Throughout the matches loud music was played, battling against live commentators. Adding to the spectator entertainment was the change in netball rules: matches were just 12 minutes long with no breaks or end changes and a five-point line awarded for those brave enough to shoot from a distance. A big Golden Buzzer offered teams double points during two-minute Power Play and each team had only 5 players on court at a time (no wings), but compensated with rolling subs. All-in-all, it made for a very fast and loud spectator extravaganza.

Each team included 2 international ‘All Stars,’ shipped in for the event. Playing on the Severn Stars squad were: Ashleigh Brazill, an Australian Netball and AFL Women’s player, currently signed to the Collingwood Magpies in both disciplines, and Phumza Maweni the South African Netballer, who was signed to Severn Stars in the 2017/18 Vitality Netball Superleague, recently signing to Sunshine Coast Lightning for the 2019 Suncorp Super Netball season in Australia.

With all the teams having international ‘All Stars,’ the event was made very exciting for the spectators, with so many big names playing in one afternoon. The event was filmed and shown on Sky Sports Mix so it wasn’t only those with tickets who could enjoy the event.

For me, the event involved getting up at 5am to arrive at the meeting point at 7am, to travel in convoy to the venue (via the M25!). I had spent the week before preparing documentation for my Emergency Action Plan (EAP), with a shiny portfolio that I was proud to be able to present to the team Therapist, Peter Thain, who I was supporting for the day. On arrival we carried a lot of equipment, including two massage couches and “5-tonnes” of ice from the car park, through various buildings and arrived at the “world’s smallest” changing room. So, we set up shop in the corridor outside. The glamour of the event was saved for the cameras. Our players activated, warmed up and went through rituals and team talks in the corridor, while Pete and I did our best to provide any support required and also to stay out of the way.

Before it all kicked off, Pete and I introduced ourselves to the on-site Paramedics and worked through our responsibilities and roles during an emergency. It occurred to me, as the experienced Pete and Paramedics discussed details, that the key to providing the best assistance during an emergency is planning, preparation, practice and more planning.

When off court it was business as usual, but during game time, it was all lights, noise, action and on-court displays of athleticism. Pete and I did our best not to be distracted by it all, to continue to do our job and be ready for any medical event, big or small.

Severn Stars had a successful day out, losing only in the semi-finals and bringing home a prize win of £12,500 for the club, and more importantly with no injuries. It was a long and exhausting day, and I didn’t get back home to my family until nearly midnight, but it was a day like no other that I won’t forget in a hurry. I met and worked with the coaches, therapist, general manager and players of a Fast5 All Stars Netball team. I met and introduced myself to other players, coaches, medical support staff at the venue and developed contacts and experience.

It was an amazing day and a truly great opportunity to work with some Netball Greats, building relationships and experience for my future working in elite sport.’

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