Eboni Beckford-Chambers is an England international netball player, who has also made a name for herself by petitioning to get Netball into the 2012 Olympics. Sportsister caught up with her at her training centre in Bath.
Can you talk us though how you got involved in Netball?
I started playing at school, my mum encouraged me to do lots of different sports so I also tried gymnastics, athletics and tennis amongst other things. Then I started to grow and realised that this was an advantage for certain positions in netball. My teacher, Mrs Oates, put me in attack and then defense and really encouraged me to join a club and get more involved.
So then when I was 12 I joined the Downs Club in Epsom, and by 14 I had my first county cap. I had a great time playing at county level, with some fantastic coaches – it really was a great time. Then I was playing in a match in Manchester and I got spotted by an England talent scout. I was just so happy about that, and it lead to me being offered the chance to attend a talent camp in Kent, where they put me through my paces and tested me.
I didn’t get in the squad in my first year, but I went away and followed a conditioning programme that they gave me and then I got in the second year I trialled, at 16. Luckily since then I have just stayed in the programme.
This year in April I had my first England cap against Malawi. It was amazing, especially the match in Wembley, because it was always a dream of mine to play for England there and to actually achieve it was fantastic. We had an amazing crowd of around 10,000 and there was such an brilliant atmosphere.
Being on Sky and having support from the Co-op has made such a huge difference to our sport, it just means so many more people are aware of us and the game.
So tell us about your campaign:
Well I set up a facebook group to raise the profile of the bid to get into the 2012 Olympics, and I now have 29,000 supporters, with some very high profile names like Kelly Holmes and Brian Ashton. The Co-op also ran a survey with people who paid by chip or pin in one week of August, we had 290,000 people show their support that way, and there are also 500 written petitions.
But we still have a way to go. I heard Gordon Brown talking about bringing women’s football into the 2012 games, but I thought well what about netball? It’s already on the curriculum for girls in school. We do know that he backs our bid to get in, but we have not seen any action yet.
Talk us though your training schedule.
Well I train everyday, not always on court though. For example I do weights on a Monday with a conditioning coach. Then once a week I do an England training session with our coach Sue, she comes to Bath, and goes to three other centres where the squad are based, which is great. We do a two hour session, so she can really keep a check on our progress and keep up to date with us all.
I also play for Bristol Universitie’s BUSA team as well as TeamBath’s Superleague team. It’s great being part of these teams; it’s like being part of a huge family. It is really hard to explain. There is no real competitiveness between the girls, just a combined sense of support and encouragement for one another.
It must be great for the younger members of the team to be able to play alongside the England players.
Oh yes, it’s also nice for the younger girls to be playing alongside the Superleague team, there is such a positive vibe and I know that when I started playing I was so in awe of the top players – it really helped to have such great role models and now hopefully I can be an inspiration for the younger girls.
The set up here in Bath is great for development. For example last year a lot of our team was travelling to internationals (seven were away at one time), so it gave a chance for some of the up and coming players to get in the first team.
Do you do any other sports?
We had some fun doing rock climbing as a team building exercise before the season started – that was fun, but we have to be careful. We can’t afford to risk injury. But I do love other sports, I used to do athletics and that was great, but for me at the moment it’s just netball.
Do you watch what you eat or follow a diet?
We get to see nutritionists and although I am probably not as strict as I should be, I don’t eat a lot of junk food. I do eat pasta, rice etc and all the usual favourites and make sure I get enough protein and vegetables. I know what my optimum fitness weight is, so I do monitor it.
What would you say to people interested in taking up the sport?
The increased coverage has really shown that the sport is so modern and dynamic, I think before people had this memory of traditional school sports and awful uniforms, but it has really moved on. So don’t be put off by your school day memories. You don’t have to be tall either, there are different positions that require different abilities, centre court and wing attack tend to be short and nippy for example.
Who do you most admire?
I most admire my mum, she was a great basketball player and such an inspiration.
What do you personally get out of netball?
It’s a brilliant stress reliever, my life is so busy and it’s great to step away from that and be with a group who all have the same goals. I enjoy the training, you come here and you know if you work hard you really will see the results and that makes it all worthwhile.
I have grown up with netball, I have grown from a girl to a woman within it and it is a real security blanket for me, wherever I go I can join a club and instantly feel at home and have something in common with new people.
Ambitions for the future?
I am hoping to get to the Commonwealth Games in India in 2010, we got a bronze last time, so that’s a big ambition. We have the World Youth (under 21) Championships in 2009 in the Cook Islands and the World Championships in 2011, and hopefully a show event at the very least in London 2012.
I would love to stay involved in netball after I have finished playing, maybe not as a coach though as I don’t have the confidence. But within sport, maybe for England Netball or UK Sport.
Danielle Sellwood, Sportsister
The Women’s Sport Magazine
www.nicna.co.uk (Northern Ireland)
The Co-operative are backing the bid to make netball part of the Olympics. To show your support, log onto Facebook and join the group “Bid to get netball in the 2012 Olympics”.