Korfball training turned out to be a safe haven for Niamh during her university years.
Here she tells Club Solutions her story about how joining a sports club helped her mental health, and how she now tries to help other new members feel just as included.
Niamh was encouraged to try Korfball when her brother discovered the sport at university. He then took her along to a session. She saw it as a new challenge and couldn’t wait for the next training session.
“I got in contact with a random person from the club I found online and was straight away insisted upon to attend a session, they seemed so excited to have me involved.
“Having no idea what I was getting myself into, I entered a sports hall and was met by a huge group of chatty, laughing people – it was so much fun!”
Now a Coach at the club, Niamh tries to adopt the same ‘big welcome’ approach when new members join the club, “I'm always so excited to invite new people to sessions so they can experience the fun and comradery that come with the sport.”
At school, Niamh took part in some sports but “never really liked the all-girl sports.” Niamh feels that being part of a mixed gender sports club has a big impact on how people respect and communicate with each other.
“I’ve really enjoyed this year being part of a male/female coaching pair. We get to focus our time on our particular genders and the way they play, which I think allows more respect to form for what both genders can offer. I feel there can be a danger of females to fall into the secondary assisting roles, whereas the men become more dominant and demanding.
“I try my best to make sure no one shrinks into the background and always try to make people feel included and welcome.”
“As a female coach working with a male coach who understands this issue as well, we really work to empower the females and instil in the males the importance of a team effort in games and training. This also applies to slightly quieter possibly less confident members of the club.”
Niamh understands the important responsibility that a Coach has to their players and the rest of the Club as a whole, and explains how the club try to achieve this:
“We as coaches try to keep a very open dialogue between ourselves and the players and I know the committee do that also. It means that if players have any issues, sport related or personal that may be affecting them then they have lots of people that they can address.”
More than sport.
For Niamh, the sport has been so much more than a physical boost.
“I can’t gush enough about how korfball effectively pulled me from out of a hole.”
When she started university, over 400 miles away from home and on a course she had picked on a bit of a whim, she joined Korfball and tried to rely on her outgoing personality to help her adapt to the changes.
But a couple of months into her first year, she started to withdraw into herself.
She remembers: “I stopped going to lectures, stopped going out with my friends, eventually to the point where I wouldn’t even answer my door to my flat mates.” She was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and eventually got help from the University Wellbeing Service.
The Korfball Club was her “safe place.”
“Throughout this difficult time in my life, the strange thing was I did not stop Korfball and the only place I could go was to training and games” she explains. “I felt safe, welcome and among people I still consider my best friends.”
Now as a fully qualified nurse, Korfball is one of the ways she escapes the stresses of her job.
Friends for life.
Niamh adds: “My current club includes some of my closest friends, those I turn to for advice and seek support from. I think that is one of the reasons I get so excited for people to come and join the sport...it has provided such wonderful experiences and friendships for me, and I want them to have that too!”