ENGINEERING A CAREER IN NETBALL: SOPHIE DRAKEFORD-LEWIS


Netball wasn’t always Sophie’s main sport. Growing up Sophie was a National tennis champion and only played netball at a local club for fun. However, her natural netballing talent was quickly recognised by Berkshire County and Sophie was selected for the Regional Academy before making her England debut with the U17 squad a year later.

Sophie recalls her GCSE year as a particularly busy time. In full time education and training most days on a tennis court, she was also balancing training within the England netball set up. It was when she suffered a back injury that Sophie was forced into making some difficult decisions.


Wary of overloading her body, her focus shifted to netball where she credits the appeal of a team environment as a big factor in her decision. But this was not just a social decision. “Ever since I started playing netball, for as long as I can remember, I wanted to play for England at a major competition”.


Throughout her sporting career, Sophie acknowledges that her academic education has always remained a No.1 priority for her. Now a Bath University undergraduate student reading a BEng in Integrated Mechanical and Electrical Engineering we caught up with Sophie to get her reaction on her first Roses contract and discuss how she is going to balance the demands of a Roses training regime alongside an Engineering degree at Bath University.


Congratulations on your Roses Contract, how did it feel when you first heard that you were being given a contract? “I was totally over the moon, it is incredible to have the opportunity to be a full time athlete and it is one step closer to achieving my dream of representing the Roses at a major competition”.


What does an average week look like for you now? “Well Roses camps are either Sunday to Wednesday or Saturday to Tuesday and then I’m back at Uni for the end of the week. Each week is a different schedule and when I’m back at uni I’m also training with my franchise, Team Bath."


How do you balance the demands of your training with your academic studies? “Bath Uni have been really good at understanding my position. I had heard that another TASS athlete had split their second year over two years, so I approached my director of studies to find out if this was something that I could do this with my final year. Basically I will be taking half of my modules this year and then the other half the next academic year. ”


Was it a difficult decision for you to make to continue with your studies rather than jump at the opportunity to be a full-time athlete? “I love the variation of what I do, the ability to spend 8 hours a day in a lab environment learning about the science behind the latest technology and then going out to train with the Roses squad or Team Bath. It keeps me busy and that is how I like to be. You have to think long term, netball doesn’t last forever and I want to have options outside of the game. You just don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s important to have something to fall back on.”


You attended one of the NPA Roadshows earlier this year, how has this been of benefit to you? “They have been a fantastic opportunity to learn and be educated on matters such as contractual and image rights for which I was probably a bit clueless before. The game has moved on so much in the last few years and the NPA is a great for players like myself at the beginning of our careers who can then learn from the senior players”.


How do you see the NPA being of value to you moving forward in your career? “The best thing about the NPA is that they care about personal development, it is not just about being an athlete or a netballer, they help players as individuals and care about your personal development.”


This article was written by Amy Cowd

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