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Netball: For the Love of the Game

Ashleigh Stober is a WP Netball player and one of our FitComm community members. Olympic International sat down with her recently to share our passion for the game and get some insight into what it takes to play this sport at provincial level. 

When did you realise you loved to play netball? How old were you?
I played netball for the very first time at the age of 9. All my friends at the time were playing. I immediately fell in love with the game, and I’ve never looked back.

What are the three things you enjoy the most about this sport?
It’s high paced. I love the feeling of knowing that I’m working my ass off. It’s not all about how fast you can be; it involves reading the game and timing every jump and pass. Teamwork; people coming together to achieve a common goal, no matter the circumstances

What is your go-to pre-match mantra or routine? How do you get match-ready?
To be match ready, I need to be well rested. I also always make sure that I maintain good fitness; I often do park runs and hit the gym when I’m not on the court. My pre-match routine starts off with a 5 minute run (to get the blood pumping) and then some dynamic stretches.

What is your go-to post-match recovery routine?
Static stretching and proper hydration. I tend to sweat a lot more than your average female on the court so drinking plenty of water after a game is vital.

What do you eat to give you enough energy during a game?
I’m not a big eater. My diet consists of having multiple small meals and snacks throughout the day. You’ll never find me sitting down with a big plate of food. So naturally, before a game, I’ll have some small carbs; a sandwich, banana, boiled eggs. I love eggs.

What are your most significant achievements in the game thus far?
Representing my province (Western Province) in netball, as well as in action netball in the ladies and mixed divisions.

What are your biggest strengths in the game?
My greatest strength would be my speed and agility on the court. At a mere 1,65m tall, I’m one of the shortest players on the court – height being a significant advantage to netball players. I definitely was not blessed with the gift of height, but I can reach those heights with my jumps.

Which areas do you still need to work on?
Fitness – it’s the one thing that I believe that can be improved.

Have you ever had to stage a comeback after a nasty injury? Describe that time in your career?
I’ve had knee surgery to repair damage to my meniscus. Being an active person and leading a very active lifestyle, my biggest challenge is allowing my body time to rest when injured. I just can’t sit still and take it easy. Luckily for me, I was a swimmer too, and this was the one thing I could do throughout my rehab. Being active keeps me sane. Although this was my biggest real hiccup, it was my greatest mental and emotional challenge too.

Which is your favourite move on the court? What technical advice can you give an aspiring netball player who is struggling to master this move?
The best feeling on court, for me, is making that intercept or simply just getting a finger to the opponents ball of a pass made, whether playing in an attacking or defensive position. Here good agility and timing of a travelling ball comes into play.

What does it take to achieve provincial colours for the sport and are you aiming for national colours?
Hard work and complete commitment to the sport. Good consistent play is key. I am not aiming for national colours. I play the sport simply because I LOVE TO PLAY. Achieving my provincial colours is just the cherry on top of my love and passion for the game.

How do you recover from losing and what has it taught you about yourself?
I don’t ever believe that we have lost, but rather learnt. If you cannot learn anything from a loss, then something is drastically wrong. Losing a match just proves that there are weaknesses; things that needs improving. And what would life be if we didn’t have these opportunities to develop?

If you weren’t a netball player, what would you be?
A competitive lifesaver or a more avid runner or hiker.

How do you stay fit during the off season?
I never have an “off season”. I play the netball league in the winter season and action netball league in the summer season. Luckily, in Cape Town, we have leagues that run throughout the year, be it social or competitive. I do park runs on Saturday mornings too, as well as the gym.

What has being a netball player taught you about life?
That it really does pay to work hard. Whatever you put in, you’ll surely get out. 

When you’re not playing netball, you are….
Taking my dogs for a walk. I love being outdoors. If I’m not out with my dogs, I love a good braai.

What do you think the future of netball is in South Africa?
Netball has grown immensely in the past few years. Just by looking at the increased amounts of teams competing at a provincial level. It’s also being televised more frequently now, obviously not as much as I would like. With increased sponsorship, Netball in SA can only grow.

What advice can you give a young girl wanting to enter the competitive world of netball?
See losses or setbacks as opportunities to learn. Yes, its cliche’, but hard work really does pay off.

Share a quote that inspires you every day.
“I am powerful beyond measure.” (I have this one tattooed on my leg). “Strivers achieve what dreamers believe”