With the recent launch of the Shock Absorber Netball Academy intosport.com took some time to get to know one of the stars of the series, Loughborough Lightning and England U21 Centre, Sarah-Jane O’Sullivan.
Sarah-Jane, or SJ as she’s better known to most in the game, 20, has been involved with netball from an early age and has been on the England scene for the last few years, “I first became involved in netball at junior school where I played in local tournaments and joined Telstars Netball Club at the age of 10. When I was 12, I was selected to represent Kent at County level, and a few years later I was scouted by England Netball, and following numerous talent weekends in Sheffield was selected into the England U17 squad.”
SJ is clearly very committed to netball, in fact her weekly schedule includes no fewer than 7 training sessions. “I train four times a week in the gym which includes strength & conditioning, endurance & fitness work and speed and agility sessions. On top of that I also have three court-based sessions a week”. It’s this level of dedication that led to one of SJ’s proudest moments, representing England U21’s for the first time “Not only was I very excited and nervous but I experienced a great feeling of pride and responsibility in playing for England U21”
“I recently played in the Cook Islands for the World Youth Netball Championships. It was such an incredible and memorable experience, both on and off the court. The excitement of the local school children at the airport who were singing and waving flags and greeting us with garlands as we stepped off the plane was definitely one of the highlights of my stay. Walking out into the arena for the opening ceremony was definitely the best moment of the tournament and a memory I will never forget.
I experienced a great feeling of pride and responsibility playing for England U21
Although SJ’s one of England’s rising stars, she could have chosen to represent Ireland, the homeland of her sporting idol, rugby union star Brian O’Driscoll. “He’s so inspiring to watch and undoubtedly one of the best centres, if not the best, in the world. He is an exciting player who demonstrates a great energy and motivation and he always produces on the big occasion.” No arguments from us on that one!
So what about this season’s Super League ? “There has been quite a lot of movement of players between franchises this year, with Surrey Storm being the new team for this season and Mavericks having registered some very experienced players. I wouldn’t like to guess at which team is the one to beat!!”
SJ was part of the Loughborough Lightning team that played an exhibition warm up match against Australia before the World Netball Series in Manchester, playing to the new Fast Net rules. The new rules combine new ideas like power plays and shooting from outside the circle, with shorter quarters to quicken up the pace of the game “I really enjoyed playing the Fast Net variation of the game. Using power-plays and rolling subs gives more hype to the game and allowing the shooters to shoot from outside the circle for double points generates more crowd involvement. It is definitely exciting for both players and spectators and I hope it catches on both at local and international level”.
So, aside from the competition and fitness, what else is so special about netball? “The best thing is definitely the involvement in a team sport, which is a challenging discipline, combined with the team spirit which develops among the players. I’ve made some great friends through netball too – the better you know your team mates off the court, the better you play together on it”
With her sporting career lying in front of her and her passion for the game as strong as ever Sarah-Jane has her goals firmly in her sights “my goals are to maximise my potential, to play Superleague and ultimately play for England at senior international level. I would say to someone interested in netball to above all enjoy playing the game, train hard and have a positive attitude and strive to be the best you can be”.
Finally, how did you enjoy taking part in the intosport.com video shoot? “Being involved in the intosport.com netball shoot was really enjoyable, and interesting to see how various skills can be broken down and illustrated on camera for people to learn. The highlight was winning the ‘cross-bar challenge’, successfully throwing the ball through the net from halfway!!”. No chance of you not getting a mention in for that one – the only player to successfully score from the centre circle – watch the video for the best... and worst of the attempts.