Berkhamsted U14s have won the 2020 Sisters n Sport National Schools Netball Championships. The tournament is one of the top events on the netball calendar and follows the England Netball National Schools Finals which Berkhamsted U14s won earlier in the year.
With qualifying starting back in 2019, the journey to the final stage was substantially delayed due to the global pandemic. Eventually, the final saw Berkhamsted compete against Bablake after six gruelling knockout rounds.
Round 1 V Bedford 42-32
Round 2 V Brentwood 27-25
Round 3 V Surbiton 34-20
Round 4 V Sevenoaks 44-24
Quarter Final V Godolphin and Latymer 44-42
Semi-Final V St Swithuns 49-41
Final V Bablake 37-21
A big win for the U15’s. Congratulations girls! Well done to @bablakeschool for an extremely physical and competitive game. Thanks to @sistersnsport for hosting a fantastic FINAL! pic.twitter.com/FJLQHYZFlR
— Berkhamsted Sport (@BerkoSport) May 25, 2021
Berkhamsted’s pedigree at national level is remarkable. Berkhamsted netballers have lifted national trophies seven times in six years: 2020 (2), 2018, 2016, 2015 (2) and 2014.
Berkhamsted’s captain Ella Nijkamp was named the Player of the Match in the final by the competition scouts. “Without doubt this has been one of my best sporting experiences. We had been together as a team now for 3 years and we had experienced all the things you do in sport. The highs and lows, the early mornings and late nights, the struggles with managing work and getting training done, and the day of Nationals it just felt as though everything had come together perfectly.
Tears of joy
“There was so much support for each other and we were proud of each other for getting where we were. When the final hooter went and we realised we had won and were National Champions again, everyone just ran to hug each other, crying tears of joy, laughing, rejoicing; that for me is the moment that motivates me when I am about to start a training session because there is no feeling quite like it” she said.
Millie Day, Goal Defender and Vice-Captain said “After already being crowned National Schools Champions back in March, this was a unique opportunity to win two national titles in the same year. Something that has never been done, as far as we know. We had some really tough fixtures, so we had a clear plan of what we needed to do win. When the whistle blew the girls at the end of the final we were so happy as we couldn’t believe we were National Champions again!”
Returning to netball after lockdown
“Covid made it more difficult as the final was so prolonged. For a long time we weren’t able to train together as a team. In lockdown we were all working on our fitness and specific skills to make sure we were at our best ability when returning back to netball. Since coming back to school in April we have had lots of training to re build our connections with our team mates and to make sure we felt confident going into the final.”
During all of this, Millie was training in tennis and athletics which would normally be a sole focus in the summer with the netball season finishing. Impressively, Millie qualified for the National Junior Championships and reached the semi-finals of the doubles competition.
“Berkhamsted has taught us to have positive mindsets going into every tournament and match and they have installed belief in us that we can always win.” she added.
What a feeling to be back… The Year 10 netball squad had a blast this morning back on court. We loved seeing you all smile and enjoyed watching what was still a very hard contested internal fixture! Well done to the Pink team captained by Scarlett! #12-10 pic.twitter.com/zrR7I2j3JF
— Berkhamsted Sport (@BerkoSport) March 13, 2021
‘Unbelievable’ coaching and facilities
Ella recognises the impact coaching and the support the team has received from staff. “I think as a school Berkhamsted are always pushing their athletes to be the best version of themselves they can be. The amount of work that goes on behind the scenes from coaches is unbelievable and we are so lucky with the facilities we are provided with to enable us to reach those goals. But I think the most important factor is the belief that our coaches and team have in each of us individually to be in a National Champion team. That for me is like the seed that is sewn and from it you are just able to grow and keep achieving more and more. Really if you believe it, you can achieve it.
Berkhamsted’s Head of Netball Danielle Wates said “Wow! Double National Champions… What an achievement and year these girls have had. We couldn’t be any more proud as a department of this squad knowing how much work they put in during their training sessions and the extra hours they put in personally. Our girls have been extremely lucky to have had experienced superb coaching under the expert guidance of Mrs Holt and Katt Ainsworth. It is a very proud moment for me as Head of Netball to watch the calibre of Netballers we have at the school and I cannot wait to watch this squad progress in the future.”