Bouncing back to netball

A gruelling battle with cancer led an Aberdeenshire woman back to the game she loved

After a gruelling battle with cancer, Aberdeenshire woman Gillian Gibson was inspired to return to the game she loved by the Bounce Back to Netball programme — and gained a new lease of life in the process.

The initiative — which encourages people of all ages and abilities to get involved in Netball — has played a significant role in helping Netball Scotland record an encouraging rise in players taking up the sport. In figures released in 2015 which showed memberships of the governing bodies responsible for the 17 sports at Glasgow 2014 — showed that netball was enjoying substantial growth.

On the rebound

Gillian Gibson is one of many people who have recently returned to netball and rediscovered her enjoyment of the game through the governing body’s Bounce Back to Netball programme.

Involvement benefits recovery

The 47-year-old mother of two became involved last year, after going along to her local club, and has found that getting involved has provided great benefits in her recovery after her fight with breast cancer.

“I’d enjoyed netball in primary school and thought it would be a gentle way to do some exercise – but I soon found out that it’s an energetic, fast-paced and fun game,” said Gillian, from Alford in Aberdeenshire.

‘I didn’t even notice I was doing exercise’

“The first few sessions I had to have a rest halfway through but over the weeks, I built up my stamina and could feel muscles I’d never felt before. But it was such fun I didn’t even notice I was doing exercise. Netball is such a sociable game because you’re part of a team. Everyone in the team is at a different level of fitness and ability but it doesn’t matter as we’re having a laugh. I love it and I’ve made new friends.

Energy, confidence and lift

“Netball got me out of the house, gave me back my energy and confidence and lifted me out of depression after a grueling year when I had surgery to remove a tumour, chemotherapy, drug therapy and radiotherapy. Now I’m sleeping better and I feel great. I have a much more positive outlook and live more for the moment.”

‘Netball helped me get back into the world’

Gillian finished her treatment in November 2013 and took up netball the following year. “It was a brutal year coping with all the side effects and it left me weakened and tired and lacking in energy,” she said.

“When I was having chemotherapy I hardly went anywhere because my immune system was depressed and it would have been easy for a minor infection to turn into a life-threatening one. After I’d come through the treatments I knew I’d survived breast cancer, but I didn’t feel like myself any more.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere as I was recovering and taking things slowly. I turned inwards and just wanted to stay with my close family and shut out the world. Netball helped me get back into the world and restore balance to my life. I feel so much better physically and mentally.”

Helping others on the same journey

The Bounce Back to Netball (BBN) concept is a Legacy initiative designed by Netball Scotland to respond to the positive impact of netball on the Scottish public following the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

It encourages people of all ages and abilities over the age of 16 to participate in regular, fun, safe and affordable netball sessions, which will have a positive impact on health and well-being. Many existing clubs, local authorities, corporate businesses and community groups provide opportunities for recreational netball and the BBN programme aims to build on their good practice to empower people to bounce back to netball. 

Netball’s success in numbers

After being launched in October 2014, the total number of Bounce Back clubs is already at 35 and rising. With over 700 new people taking up netball since 2015, figures released by sportscotland confirm that netball has performed the best out of any sport in Scotland, in terms of increased participation in the aftermath of the Games, with a rise of 58%. 

How you can bounce back too

If you’d like to join in and bounce back to netball, then visit 

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