We recently spoke to Severn Stars and England Youth International Iona Darroch about the importance of life away from the netball court to create a healthy balance. Iona chats freely about her passion for illustration and the positive influence from both her parents growing up, specifically her mum who loved art and always encouraged Iona and her brother and sister to be creative.
Relatively late into netball, Iona developed quickly from the age of 11. “Football was my main sport growing up, but I started playing netball at secondary school. I joined my local club Wilmslow Lightning and quickly entered into the county and regional system where Karen Greig was my coach. I moved to Tameside when I was 14 and also played prem netball at Oldham. I was picked up by the NPL at Manchester Thunder where Karen Greig was the Head Coach. Karen had a huge influence on me and my netball and helped push me forward into the England set up. I was quite late into the team as I had 3 unsuccessful trials for the under age group squads.”
“I am now playing in my third season for Severn Stars with Head Coach Sam Bird. Sam has always backed me as a player and has really helped me develop my game over the last few years. This has also been my first year in the Roses programme. I’ve loved being coached by Tracey Neville and training alongside some of the World’s best players has been a brilliant opportunity.”
Passion for Art
“Art has always been a huge passion of mine, my mum taught a lot of art and there were always paints and crafts around the house when we were growing up. I continued Art to A level and it’s always something I have really enjoyed. I originally started an art foundation course at Manchester University, but when I got a call from Severn Stars asking me to join the Superleague team, I decided to look at the Illustration course at Worcester University. The course there is great and has been much more suited to me. It’s a smaller group of working illustrators and we are able to talk and share ideas which is really encouraging.”
“It is definitely a juggling act balancing netball alongside doing my illustration degree. It’s just about being honest with people, I have discussions with my tutors about my netball commitments and the University have been really supportive. There are always going to be clashes and sometimes you just have to work things out, but it’s really important to have a life away from netball and have that balance. I think that has really helped me to enjoy being on the court too.”
“I’ve also recently got engaged and we are planning to get married this summer so I’m really looking forward to this part of my life too! Jonaz is a big support in all the different commitments I have, through all the highs and lows. Planning a wedding is a big task but we are very excited and looking forward to this Summer!”
“As an athlete you have to understand that you’re not going to be playing netball forever, so it is definitely important to have a plan outside of the game. Although there are always going to be opportunities within netball like coaching. I think I’m quite lucky as I’ve had a well balanced upbringing and good influences from a range of friends. I am a Christian and going to church has always been an important part of who I am and I think having your own beliefs at the centre of all you do helps to keep you grounded.
Right now, I have my netball goals which are to get back into the Roses programme and continue gaining experience at Superleague level. I think in terms of illustration, the course has been really varied but I’ve really enjoyed the elements of children’s illustration so that is something I would like to pursue, or running workshops for children and sharing my passion for Art.”
Why the NPA is Important
“The introduction of the NPA has been fantastic for netball. I’m quite lucky as I’m still at the beginning of my netball career and to have the support now from the NPA is great. It’s really important to consider player welfare and to have that support for post career management. Just being able to have those conversations with people and to help understand what your passions are outside of netball.”
“We are really lucky to have players like Serena (Guthrie) and Jade (Clarke) as role models, speaking up for players and promoting the NPA. I think there is a lot more focus now on the mental health of athletes and it’s important as players that we are aware of this and have the right support networks in place.”
Main image credit: Emma Streatfield
This article was written by Amy Cowd