Welcome to my first column and thank you to the YEP for giving me the opportunity to do one of my favourite things ... write about myself!
Obviously, I am joking, however, to start off with it makes sense to let you all know a little more about me.
Up until October 2015 I was an England netballer. I have been representing my country at age group level from the age of 15 and have amassed over 50 caps as a senior international.
I have been fortunate enough to travel the world with netball and have also participated in two Commonwealth Games (Delhi, 2010 and Glasgow, 2014) as well as two World Cups (Singapore, 2011 and Sydney, 2015).
Since I was 15 and had my first taste of wearing the red dress, all of my decisions have been based around netball.
When my parents announced they were emigrating to Canada, I was 17 and already had my future mapped out in my head. I have a pretty decent sporting DNA as my father, Kevin Francis was a striker for Stockport County and Birmingham City (to name just two) in his heyday so making life choices based on sport was something I grew up around.
I have always been an incredibly passionate and dedicated individual, which I believe are traits that you will find in most athletes, so the decision to stay behind and stick to my plan was an easy one. I moved in with my nan whilst I was finishing my A-levels and then moved to Bath at the age of 18 and remained there until 2015.
Now, I am on a brand new adventure and for the first time in over 10 years I am making decisions that are based solely around my well-being and professional development as opposed to my sport. As an England netballer our training programme only allows for part-time work, while also needing flexibility for extended periods of time away when competing.
As you can imagine the ability to progress professionally while achieving sporting success is a difficult one – especially when my interests did not directly lie in the world of sport. Fortunately, some opportunities are fairly common within the world of teaching and coaching as they tend to have a better appreciation for what you do.
However, I identified very early on that I was passionate about neither field. Having always been highly ambitious and extremely aware of the need for a career outside of sport, I have sought out pertinent opportunities for part-time work over the years with various companies and extremely supportive employers in areas that I have been interested in.
I also obtained a BSc Hons in Sports Performance from Bath University along with an MA in English from Cardiff Metropolitan.
Now 28, I made a big move up north to Leeds and I am four months into my first full-time job as a press officer for Sports Coach UK, while also being extremely proud to be the new captain of the 2016 Yorkshire Jets squad.
The 2016 Vitality Netball Superleague gets underway in three days with our first game of the season starting at 4pm at the Genting Arena, in Birmingham, against Loughborough Lightning.
This season opener is set to be one like we have never experienced before with it being dubbed ‘Super Saturday’.
For the first time ever, the opening round will see all of the teams do battle in one day, meaning four games, showcasing all eight teams – all at an arena venue.
The atmosphere will be electric – bring on the Superheroes and get behind your team.
If you have never given even a second thought to coming to watch a game of netball, I am certain that four games would seem fairly OTT.
However, as a fellow non-netball watcher I would encourage you get a ticket as the atmosphere is sure to be electric. It is going to be a fantastic opportunity to check out all of the teams in what is set to be the most competitive season in Superleague history.
For the conclusion of their dedicated netball month, the whole day will be shown live on Sky Sports if you can’t make it down to Birmingham.
The second game of our season rolls around pretty quickly for us as we face Team Bath – my old team of 10 years – at the Sheffield EIS Arena, Live on Sky Sports on Monday, February 1 at 7.45pm.
I can’t wait to fill you in on what will have been a hectic first few days of the season and look forward to getting to know the Yorkshire Jets fans better!