In Britain's most northerly inhabited island, 15 year old Erin Spence is proof that the island is more than a breeding ground for a vast range of seabirds. As well as gannets, guillemots and kittiwakes, you can also spot an incredible netball player who is making her mark on the national netball scene. Not put off by the two ferries needed to reach Lerwick, Erin regularly travels to take part in selections and training sessions as well as competitions so that she continues to develop her netball skills.
We spoke to Erin about why she enjoys the game so much and it was clear that it’s all about the teamwork.
“The great thing about netball is that no individual player can win a game, no matter how skilled they are. Each player is restricted to certain areas on court and only two players can score goals, that makes it impossible to get through a game without relying on your teammates. That’s what I love about it, working together and supporting each other is what the game is all about.”
Travelling the distances (over 400 miles to Edinburgh and Glasgow!) that Erin does to participate in training and matches for the Scotland Under 15’s, takes significant commitment – and not just from Erin but also from her family. Coordinating her dad’s work shifts, childcare and other family commitments means that Erin relies heavily on her family and especially her mum for support. They’re delighted to do everything they can to balance Erin’s netball schedule with living on Unst and so far, they’ve made it work. Erin’s mum told us how the journey home from trials was a tense one until Erin got the call that she had been successful in making it through to the next stage. That helped ease the burden of a cancelled flight, three bus changes and the long overnight boat journey home!
Erin’s success at making it into the Scotland netball pathway programme wouldn’t have happened without the solid local foundation thanks to her local Active Schools and club netball supported by Shetland Netball Association. Playing locally and at district level, Erin developed her skills over a number of years and is proud of the standard of netball played across Shetland.
As well as developing her fitness and specific netball skills, Erin recognises that developing in sport has also helped her in many other ways. Having been used to living in a small community where everyone is known to each other, it was a challenge at first to travel so far from home and play alongside netballers from across Scotland whom she didn’t know. Erin told us:
“It helped me to develop my confidence every time I had to meet new people, sometimes the other players knew each other, possibly having played together in their district teams so I was a bit nervous at first. Thankfully the team feeling from netball is so strong that I got to know the others and gradually felt my confidence grow.”
Supported by the sportscotland Athlete Travel Award Scheme (ATAS), Erin is thankful that some of the travel costs are covered by the ATAS funding she receives to support her development on the netball pathway. ATAS supports travel costs for Highland and island competitors to help talented athletes from the Outer Hebrides, Orkney, Shetland and Highland to gain better access to competitive and developmental opportunities available on the mainland. Successful applicants benefit from up to £1,500 to support travel and accommodation costs in attending training and competitions.
Erin is excited to continue on her netball development journey and is looking forward to what lies ahead. Living in Unst, Erin will have to move to Lerwick to complete S5 and S6 and having grown in confidence and travelled so much for her sport, she is ready to embrace it!
Find out more
- To find out more about the ATAS fund across the Highlands and Islands, visit: