When my best friend sent me a link to the Netfit retreat and I spontaneously booked flights to Bali from the UK four days before departure, friends wondered what on earth I was doing. When I arrived and was surrounded by a group of Aussies younger and fitter than I am, I must admit I had a moment when I then thought maybe they were right! Aside from the draw of two elite netballers, I was attracted to this retreat as an escape and opportunity to invest in only myself for once, not to build new relationships. Those doubts lasted no more than about a minute; the energy from Sarah, Kim and all the girls was infectious and I knew (jet lag or not) this was going to be unreal. It also didn’t hurt that I was in some kind of Hollywood mansion.

The workouts ranged from yoga to weights in the cross FIT gym, from ball drills to the intense HIIT and run (which was as savage as this unofficial pun title would suggest). I now even have exercises to strengthen my fingers and toes! It was a programme curated by experienced athletes without seeming daunting and it offered variety while retaining its core focus on netball.   My uninspired relationship to fitness was renewed after years of unsuccessfully flirting with pointless distance running or irrelevant fitness classes because who I am to not trust what a Diamond legend is telling me? I won’t lie about my highlight though: catching the hardest pass Kim Green can launch after watching the ball fly over several others heads straight into the pool. What can I say – it’s the year of the Roses.

Aside from the exercise, there was an agenda full of personal development.  We had workshops covering leadership, trust, coping with pressure, injury rehabilitation and turning negatives into positives.  I found them to be perfectly pitched – very casual, open conversations with learnings you can apply to your netball, career or relationships. As usual you need a few chatterboxes to kick start these things but there was no pressure to contribute anything if you didn’t want. I found myself humbled to learn a lot from friends ten years my junior and incredibly moved by some of the discussion. I hope Kim and Sarah realise what it meant to the group for them to share their respective journeys back from ACL injuries so openly – and every other insight they let us in on.  Can you imagine the privilege of watching the 2015 World Cup final with Kim Green commentating on every move and tactic?! The netball geek inside me was losing her mind. For some reason they didn’t want to watch the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games final with me the next night…

More than anything we had FUN. I love training with people who love netball as much as I do, just as much as I love competing with them at absolutely any other game on offer: pool volleyball, lilo races or bulldog. I also love being able to say I’ve done karaoke(ish) with a live band and tequilas with my netballing heroes!!

As an avid traveller, I still find it staggering how little of the island I got out and explored despite there being plenty of free time to do so. I usually hate to ‘waste’ time not soaking up every moment in another culture or landscape but I couldn’t think of time better spent than with the other girls. I’ve never been less glued to my phone and the beauty of no one knowing each other meant that everyone revealed as much or as little of themselves as they pleased.  Aside from visiting some beautiful beaches, learning to paddleboard and one epic day at the beach club that definitely was notabout fitness, we spent our free time developing our ball skills or continuing conversations from the workshops.  I went in as a Brit overwhelmed by the amount of high fives going around, let alone the thought of telling a group of strangers what I’m thinking but I left having fully bought into the environment that Sarah and Kim created. Even this – here I am writing about feelings.How very 2018.

Speaking of 2018, with Suncorp Super Netball bigger than ever, exciting movement in the netball world order and the #wakeupnetball movement kicking into gear, there has never been a better time for this parallel off court community to grow and grow.  I for one am firmly on the bus and ready to tell anyone who’ll listen.

Kate Higginbottom

NETFIT RETREAT Traveller & Contributor