Way back in the 1970s a primary school teacher in Birmingham found herself elected as chairman of the local junior schools netball league. The teacher’s name was Dianne Barber, and the league was the Kings Norton District Junior Netball Association.
Dianne had always been a keen netballer. She is a qualified PE specialist teacher. She has played netball at senior level for Birmingham County and the West Midlands Region, and she was one of the successful team from Linden Netball Club who won the National Clubs Competition in 1979 (equivalent to the FA Cup Final, but without the publicity!).
The Kings Norton District Junior Netball Association ran a junior schools’ league of eight sections and an annual tournament, and all the best girls from primary schools in south Birmingham were invited to trials for the District Squad, which played against the other Districts in Birmingham. The District squad was made almost exclusively of "top juniors" (this was long before we learned to call them "Year 6"), so there was a distinct lack of continuity between one year and the next.
These girls all left their junior schools at the end of the year. A few were lucky enough to go to secondary schools that played netball; most were unlucky and many were lost to the sport. There were no Little Leagues and Intermediate Leagues in those days. Girls could not play for senior clubs in the Birmingham League until they were 16 (now they can play at 15). For most girls there was nothing to bridge the gap between junior school and senior clubs.
Dianne also ran and coached (with Jenny Billings) the City Junior teams under the now defunct Birmingham Primary Schools Netball Association (BPSNA). Their players were drawn from Districts, and they played in a few major Tournaments each year (funds permitting). They also occasionally held a small Tournament in Birmingham. The Birmingham players did very well over the years against top clubs, considering that each year the team has had to be formed from scratch, and the girls have only about three months' experience of playing together.
By the early 1990s the KNDJNA had grown from the original twelve schools to over forty, but the number of Districts competing in Birmingham fell from about six to just two. This limited the opportunities for the Kings Norton girls to play at a level above that of their schools. One or two matches were arranged against Year 7 teams in secondary schools, but few secondary schools seemed to have netball teams.
Dianne began to look further afield, and began to enter the Kings Norton District Team (playing as Birmingham Junior team) in the Kings Norton colours (purple and white) in tournaments around the country, playing against other intermediate level clubs. For several years parents and girls had voiced the need for continuity for girls playing netball at years 6 and above. In 1995 the Team played and beat Ducie Netball Team from Manchester, who went on to become the National Champions. The District squad of really enthusiastic girls begged her to let them play together after they had left junior school. In response to the girls’ enthusiasm Birmingham City Netball Club was born.
With her experience of playing top club netball, and coaching the Kings Norton District Team (as well as the netball team from whichever junior school her children attended) she felt able to take on the management and coaching of an intermediate level team. She was joined by Martin Gouder, another primary school PE teacher and by one or two other people who have since dropped out. Later the Club was lucky in getting the support of Vince Morris, an experienced netball coach.
When Birmingham City Netball Club started in 1996 it had no assets: kit for the National Championships was lent by Kings Norton District. Early income was from the proceeds of raffles and weekly subscriptions from players. The money raised was used to buy skirts and bibs. The Post Office gave the Club track suits and some other kit. Training facilities were provided (free at first) by Queensbridge School, Moseley, who also provided use of their minibuses for travel at minimal cost. Balls and training bibs were been borrowed from the BPSNA. A website was set up on the AOL members space and because of the Club's name, attracted a lot of hits. AOL pulled the plug on members' websites in about 2006. This website was set up as a replacement in July 2010.
The under 13's entered the Birmingham Intermediate League in 1996 and received a standard start-up grant of £160 for kit, balls and bibs from the City Sports Development Officer. They were runners up in their division in 1996. The Club colours of Navy and turquoise were chosen at this time. Since then we have found that although navy is easy to come by, turquoise is a fashion colour and not always readily available.
In 1997 for the first time the under 11's and under 12's took part in the All England Netball Association's National Tournament. This was very expensive and the costs were mostly borne by the parents of the players. The under 11's were the Birmingham Primary Schools team playing under Club's colours got through the regional heats to the finals in Southampton (involving an expensive weekend stay) and were ranked eighth in the country. The under 12's were unfortunately eliminated in the regional heats, by just one goal.
BCNC soon became known as a good quality club, and invitations were accepted to Tournaments in Lincoln, Sale, Outer London, etc as well as to National Championships in a variety of locations. The Club has always supported the right of top junior school girls to play proper netball, and deplores the fact that the All England Netball Association (now England Netball) has ceased to hold national championships for this age group, insisting that "High Five" should be played instead.
In 1998 the Club looked for further playing opportunities and decided to enter the Birmingham Intermediate League during Summer and a senior League during Winter. We rejected the Birmingham League because of its size and because with about a dozen divisions it could have been years before we would meet serious opposition. We decided to enter the Walsall League, which is smaller and well organised, and our teams have since then secured several promotions. Our 15-16 year olds play against adults. A typical comment from the opposition is "I wouldn’t like to play against them in three years time!"
With our local rivals Parkside and South Birmingham we joined together in an indoor junior league which also includes Lincoln City and Nottingham City.
Birmingham City Netball Club trained in the gyms at Queensbridge School, Moseley for several years. When the lower gym was sacrificed to structural improvements the Club began to look out for an alternative venue in a suitable location. From September 2000 we had the use of the gym at Bishop Challenor Secondary School, Kings Heath for training on Friday evenings in two groups. Years 9 and above train first (so they can go out later socialising!), followed by Years 7 and 8.
The highlights of the Club's year are the annual netball weekends at Pontin's, Brean, Somerset. We have taken teams to these events every year for over 10 years. Years 5-6,7 and 8 play in a Tournament during last weekend in June, and Year 9,10 and 11 play the first weekend in July. We usually travel by minibus and take along parents who support and help with organising and catering. Participants are divided into sections of 8-10 teams who play against each other in the sections on the Saturday. The top half of each section play for a Cup on Sunday, and the lower half play for a Plate. The picture shows our Year 7 team from 2002.
In September 2000 BCNC started a junior section of the club for Years 4 to 6, training on Monday evenings also at Bishop Challenor. This proved to be a great success, with 48 girls joining during the first term.
In a new development in April 2002, Dianne and Rachel Maughan started a Saturday Netball Club for juniors as a first step towards setting up a Bournville & Selly Oak Little League. The Little League got going in April 2003, and as well as providing summer netball opportunities for juniors, it started to feed players into Birmingham City Netball Club. Several of the older Club players have developed skills as Team Managers for teams in the Little League.
In 2003 BCNC supported Dame Elizabeth Cadbury School, Woodbrooke Road, Bournville in its bid for funding for a Sports Hall. The bid was also backed by Bournville and Selly Oak Littele League, and a promise was made that when the Sports Hall was built, BCNC could have use of the Sports Hall for training and the Little League could have use of the school netball courts for their league matches, with use of toilet facilities in the Sports Hall if necessary.
Training in the Bishop Challenor gym was was never satisfactory because the gym was often out of action for examinations and we were left looking for alternative accommodation at short notice. In 2006 Selly Park Girls' School got a Sports Hall and we moved our training there in the April of that year.
Meanwhile the Dame Elizabeth Cadbury Sports Hall was duly built, and BCNC moved its training venue there in September 2007. After many changes of venue, the Little League was finally allowed to hold its matches at Dame Elizabeth Cadbury in 2016. The Little League has since moved to the University Of Birmingham School, Weoley Park Road, Birmingham B29 1QU.
2011 was a particularly successful year. The Under 15 team came top of the Birmingham Intermediate League having won all their matches. These followed their success in winning their age group in the 2010 Nottingham Tournament, achieving Runner Up position in Div 4 of the Walsall Winter League and winning Div 7 of the Dudley Summer League, both the last two being adult leagues.
For the last ten years BCNC has had teams in the Birmingham County League and usually manages to win through to the West Midlands Regional League. In 2016 our under 14 team got through to the National Finals, where we finished up in 14th place.
Birmingham City Netball Club was registered for the CAPS scheme with the sport's governing body, England Netball, on 27th Novenber 2006, and achieved accreditation as a Bronze Award CAPS Club on 19.03.2009. The Club is now in the process of renewing its accreditation and hopes to meet the requirments for the Bronze Award in 2019.
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(c) 2003 - 2019