Netball has been a lifelong affair for Pippa Hamer – engrossed in the game from a young age, when England welcomed the Netball World Championships (as it was known then) for a second time, she jumped at the chance to be involved. Aged 17, Pippa was a Field of Play Assistant at the 1995 tournament in Birmingham.
Maintaining the pristine condition of the court, catching balls when they fly from the field of play, and preparing team benches are just a few of the duties carried out by Field of Play Assistants. Here she tells us about her experience and what she’s most looking forward to at the 2019 edition.
What are your standout memories from 1995?
I remember there being a lot of talk about an up-and-coming shooter from South Africa who turned out to be Irene Van Dyk – it was amazing to see her play. The atmosphere around the tournament was very supportive and friendly and the players were kind enough to sign our programme.
My friend and I stayed at the University of Birmingham halls of residence where the teams were also staying. We were frequently on buses travelling between our accommodation and the arena alongside one or more of the teams. Three players from my club were also in the England squad at the time – Pat Sutherland (nee Sweeney), Wendy Hales and Justine Saunders – so it was great to watch them representing England on the court.
How did being part of the Word Cup impact you?
I started playing netball at primary school, but the World Cup inspired me to continue. I played county level at under-18s, 21s and seniors and have in more recent times become involved in netball as a volunteer. Seeing players that I trained with at the time competing at such a high level of netball against such strong competition was amazing.
What does netball mean to you?
Netball has been a constant in my life. It has given me a large support network that has stayed with me and kept growing throughout the years.
When my dad died unexpectedly when I was 20, people from my club were there to support me and knowing I had their support gave me the strength I needed to get through the toughest time in my life.
After having children, netball gave me that time and activity I did just for me. I think it’s really important women keep something for themselves to keep them mentally and physically strong.
Does netball continue to be a part of your family life?
My son has just started playing netball at school and we are all keen supporters of Mavericks. We try to get to at least one league match in during the season – this year we saw Wasps v Mavericks.
What are you most looking forward to about the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019?
I have tickets to the final and third/fourth position games and will be attending with my mum and my two children. I am also going to arrange a World Cup party for some of my netballing friends to come and watch the opening ceremony and England games.
I can’t wait to see the buzz of the World Cup and the excitement and support that the England team will get – hopefully from the wider community and not just those already involved in the sport.