This week Lesley MacDonald tells us about her career in netball and how honoured she was to captain the Scotland Netball Team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
I first started playing Netball at Primary School. Thankfully the school encouraged everyone to be involved in sport. The school had great teachers and parents to support the huge lunchtime and after school programme. At this time sport for me was about friends, learning and fun and although I have gone on to be a competitive athlete, I have found that these three things have remained just as important throughout my netball career.
I gained my first international experience at secondary school. At the time juggling school and netball was difficult, but I had tremendous role models who strived to provide knowledge and guidance: my PE teachers, family, club and district coaches had a huge influence on what path my life would take.
I was a shy kid with a lack of confidence, but sport allowed me to develop skills I did not know I had. Team work, leadership, determination to succeed, ambition to always improve and be good in my sport and of course that competitive edge.
If I was not in sport, I honestly could not tell you how my life would have turned out. I now work in sport and I am fortunate to provide opportunities to young budding sport enthusiasts. I aim to provide them with the same positive experiences I received at a young age and ignite the same spark I felt when I was first introduced to sport.
I have now represented Scotland in netball for 16 years and have 127 caps. The Commonwealth Games is the pinnacle event for any Netballer and I was hugely honoured to have captained the team at their first games as part of Team Scotland.
My team mates are those who I stand shoulder to shoulder with on court. We know how much it means to each other and the sacrifices we have each given. The missed birthdays, evenings out, special occasions and the early morning gym sessions. The players are phenomenal athletes who strive to be the best they can be to ensure our team can be the best it can be. The sport is so different from when I started; the physical body needs to be fitter, stronger and faster to compete at the intensity required.
Our games journey involved 6 matches in 7 days, which is a gruelling concept for any elite sportswomen or man. The key was to ensure our bodies recovered quickly and were ready for the next game; whether it was the first whistle on day one or the last and final whistle.
We receive tremendous support from Sport Scotland and the Institute of Sport to ensure we are able to compete successfully during these types of events. They provide strength and conditioning programmes with a sports specific coach, physiotherapy and a lifestyle coach. This is essential as all of us juggle practically full time training with a full time job or education. Without the institute we could not compete on the international stage.
Now three weeks after the closing ceremony I have had time to reflect on the rollercoaster of the heartache which was brought when our team lost to Northern Ireland. This resulted in us missing out on our finishing target of 8th place. However, as a team we support each other through the lows and have build resilience to never stop working hard to bounce back from disappointment and in this case we were rewarded when we felt absolute euphoria to pull ourselves back to finish in 9th.
As captain I felt that moment of absolute pride in my team mates and the dedication all of them have made to their sport. Elite sport is challenging, but I know as a team we will also forever remember the ultimate highs and rewards which it brings.
I can honestly say the Commonwealth Games experience was the best of my life. But now it’s about positively building legacy and I truly believe this team has contributed hugely to the legacy of netball in this country. Every member of this team has dedicated their lives to netball and we were determined to change people’s perception of the sport. We wanted to use the Commonwealth Games as a platform to showcase the sport and the athleticism, power, speed and accuracy involved in netball. We truly hope we have inspired not only the next generation of players, but anyone who ever played netball as a child and reignited their love of the sport.
You can follow the Scottish Thistles on their facebook page and you can follow my netball journey on twitter @lesleymac6