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Making the Super League: A title for Lightning 17 years in the making for Jackie Milsom

Loughborough Lightning's Team Manager Jackie Milsom celebrated her 250th game with the side last season

Loughborough Lightning’s team manager Jackie Milsom has been there and seen it all.

She was involved in founding Loughborough Lightning and when they joined the Netball Super League for its inaugural season.

Over 250 games and one title later, she is able to impart wisdom on how the NSL has, and has not, changed.

“My role has not changed actually on match days,” Milsom said. “You’ve still got the same sort of organisation.

“But, because the NSL has become more professional, you’ve got a lot more people behind the scenes that are covering roles that I would probably have done way back when.

“Back then it would have been you and the coaches and you’d do all the organising, whereas now you’ve got all the backup of sports psych, S&C, video analysis etc. that are employed by the university that are taking on some of those roles.

“Team manager now is a match-day only role, or at least it is for me because I’m still a volunteer.”

For Milsom, it is the connections she makes that have kept her coming back for 18 years.

She added: “I just like to be part of a team, it’s having the same ethos as other people.

“In netball, you make friends for life, a lot of people stay within the league for a long time so you meet the same people and it’s nice to get out, away from home duties.”

When Milsom started working with Loughborough Lightning, a fanbase had to be built.

Now it has become a place where young netball fans can see their future selves on the court.

“In netball, you get a lot of younger people there from schools, netball clubs and with family and friends, which isn’t often the case in other forms of sport,” she explained.

“Young people can see the players and think, ‘Wow, I want to be like Nat Panagarry, Mary Cholhok or any of the players that are in the team.

“In the early days the only way they got to see the players is if they turned up to a game, there was not the same coverage there is nowadays with Sky and YouTube.”

Prior to Lightning, Milsom played and volunteered with Derbyshire Netball, and when the new Netball Super League was announced she was keen to be involved.

And 17 years after those first conversations about Loughborough Lightning, they won their first title.

She said: “It was amazing to see them win the title, everything just clicked that year.

“In the moment, it is almost like you don’t believe it has happened. You think about how you are going to react and I almost forgot I needed to do my end-of-game duties!”

While she still hopes for another Lightning Grand Final victory, for the league as a whole she believes there is a need for greater coverage to continue the growth of the game.

“There’s still work to do to get more coverage on television, social media, newspaper, radio and all media avenues.

“Because you’re not going to bring more people in unless you get the coverage. I think you’ll always get your schools and netball clubs, but I think it needs to extend into a bigger audience.

The Netball Super League’s spotlight series Strong Women Supporting Strong Women: Making the Super League will continue throughout March to celebrate some of the women behind the scenes of the league, who are driving netball forward boldly, unapologetically and fearlessly.

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