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England Netball's Natalie Haythornthwaite values the importance of BUCS in the international netball pathway 22/01/2018

During a break in her busy schedule at the England training camp, we spoke to Natalie Haythornthwaite about her BUCS experience. Whether you’re wanting to pursue Netball to the top level, or just get involved recreationally, Natalie lets us in on the importance of BUCS in the performance pathway.

Kate Holden

BUCS Netball SAG Profile and Marketing Representative


Q. Which university did you go to and what did study?

A. I first went to the University of Leeds and studied Linguistics and Phonetics and I did BUCS throughout that. I then did another degree at Leeds Beckett University. I studied Speech and Language Therapy there so I’ve just finished that degree.

Q. Did you do Netball throughout both or just in your first degree?

A. During my first degree I played throughout all three years and then in my second degree I played for the first year and a half. I then had to stop because my degree was really challenging and I didn’t have enough time to do it due to placement and the workload.

Q. Are you going to pursue Speech Therapy in the future?

A. Yes I’d love to. Right now Netball is so busy that I don’t have time to do both but I have started some volunteering this month around England stuff and the dream would be to work in Stroke Rehab.

Q. Have you always been a keen netballer throughout school and university?

A. Yes, always. I was the kid that always wanted to do every sport in primary school and high school. My mum was a big influence on that because she played netball. I used to go and watch her play and then she got me into it, so I always wanted to be in the netball team and then that has just continued all of the way through school, university, and still now!

Q. Did you always want to take your netball to a National level?

A. Yes, for me I did. I went to watch an England International when I was 10 and since then I have always wanted to be a netballer. Right from being young I have always been a big fan and my mum would always take me to lots of the England games and the Superleague games, so from there I always knew I wanted to go far in Netball.

Q. How important was competing in BUCS leagues for you as part of your university experience?

A. I loved it, especially when you first start uni. BUCS and BUCS Wednesdays are talked about all over uni. For me, the social side of it was really important because I did so much netball for England, clubs, and Superleague, having the BUCS leagues there as well kept the whole experience fun. It was a Wednesday afternoon where you go and play competitive netball but it’s still fun and you’re part of a real group. You make more friends and I just loved it; I was gutted when I had to stop playing it during my second degree but I had had my five years and it was time to let someone else have a go!

Q. What would you say was the highlight of your BUCS experience?

A. I won BUCS Championships in my first year of my second degree at Leeds Beckett, so that was a highlight for me but without a doubt, 100% my biggest highlight was winning the World Uni Netball Championships in 2012. I was the captain and we made it to the final against South Africa, who were the hosts and the game went to extra time at the end. I don’t think I had ever played extra time before, and it was incredible. I have been to South Africa again playing for England and the atmosphere is amazing, I would say that winning WUCs is still one of the highlights of my whole netball career. A few of the girls in the Roses now were in that team and we share that as one of our most amazing experiences.

Q. How has competing in BUCS assisted you in your netball career since?

A. I still talk to lots of the girls that I met through BUCS now, we all still meet up. One of my closest uni friends was on the BUCS team as well so I’m still really close with her. Even when I go back to a uni now, just going and watching BUCS, the whole atmosphere is still the same. On a Wednesday afternoon sometimes if I’m by myself, I still think about when I was playing in BUCS. It was just really exciting and something fun to do. The social side of it was really good and it’s always reminded me with netball now to keep enjoying it and remember the fun side of netball which was probably the most important point for me.

Q. What key things did you learn whilst being a part of BUCS leagues?

A. Training with other girls. Some of the other girls that competed in BUCS leagues might have never played netball before or not played much, but we got them into the training environment and under the brilliant training programme that universities put on as part of BUCS. Seeing some of the girls from where they started to three years down the line and how good they had become as BUCS netballers was inspiring for me. For me I train all of the time, away from BUCS as well, but seeing those types of people was always great for me.

Q. How would you describe BUCS in three words?

A. Fun, Competitive, and something to look forward to! I know that’s not three words though!

Q. What would you say to someone that was about to start university and was thinking about joining a BUCS sport?

A. Just go for it! The amount of teams BUCS has, you don’t have to worry about just making one team. If you’ve never played before, or just want to play a little bit, there’s a team that will match your level. There are so many people playing in BUCS at university, it’s a great way to make friends. It’s also a great way to keep your life busy because I know that some degrees give you Wednesday afternoons off, so it gives you something to do and everyone loves the social side of it. It gives you more friends, better experience, and of course keeps you fit which is great when you’re at university!


Photo credits: Press Association


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