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From netball court to boardroom: How ex-Loughborough Lightning player Flo Edwards found her way on to The Apprentice

Flo Edwards is no stranger to the busy life of a businesswoman as well as a netballer.

The recruitment consultant from London, who is starring on the BBC’s The Apprentice, has had her fair share of trials and tribulations along her journey to becoming a successful business woman, especially when it came to trialling for the Netball Super League all those years ago.

 

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A post shared by Flo Edwards (@floedwards18)

“I think I was 12 or 13 when I was picked up in what used to be the NTL (now NPL) league. I got involved in one of the high performance centres near Bath and joined Hucclecote Netball Club for a few years before making the move elsewhere.” Explained Edwards.

Her academics and sport aligned well during her school years, where Edwards discovered how she could take her netball further, despite injury.

“So school; it’s one of those things where I was a bit of an all rounder. I was very sporty, okay academically and this was my life really. I played for England U17 whilst I was still at school; I think I was 16 at the time. Unfortunately I sustained a back injury so I couldn’t re-trial for the U19 team, but netball was something that was a huge part of my decision making when I was looking at university choices.”

With netball being at the forefront of her mind, Edwards had several universities to choose from when applying for Fine Art, all of which had very strong netball clubs connected to them.

“So I think my main ones I applied to were Leeds, Loughborough and Bath; they were my top three. I got accepted into Loughborough and that’s where I met Liv Murphy, (currently still Assistant Coach at Loughborough Lightning). In the first few weeks of starting university, I trialled for the uni team as well as NPL. I then progressed into the main Super League team which was rather exciting.”

Edwards continued to explain how her first year of university turned into a bit of a whirlwind in terms of her netball career.

“It was amazing and probably not what I was expecting in my first year of being at university. We had an amazing squad – the thing was back then (and still is) with Lightning is there was so much young talent with the likes of Jodie Gibson, Francesca Desmond and Hannah Joseph, who is still a very good friend of mine now!”

When asked about her training schedule and routine, Edwards was not shy in admitting that the intensity was tough, but reflects on her experience as great preparation for her ventures in the business industry now.

“It was quite different from what I guess we previously experienced because it’s so much more professional in the way it’s conducted. I think back to that time it was a bit of a shock to the system actually, because you are held to account quite heavily with training and discipline.”

“When you’re living on site as a first year, you’ve got to make sure you’re on time for every session, you’ve got to make sure that you’re doing the shooting practice, you’ve got to make sure you’re there for early morning training sessions. And so it stepped up quite a lot in terms of training intensity.”

“What I’d learned in terms of personal development stepping into some sort of high performance environment, was for me, discipline.”

She continues: “It’s a very, very good platform to learn about working in and for a team environment and actually putting it into a business context now, it meant I was better equipped to work in a more corporate environment. Just because one person does well, one person arrives on time, we all exceed. If one person’s late, if one person slips up, everyone suffers.”

 

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A post shared by Flo Edwards (@floedwards18)

Edwards also discussed how she dealt with the pressures of performing in front of a crowd and on the television and when transferring those life skills to the business industry.

“I guess it instilled a strong team focused mentality in the work environment.

“I think another one would certainly be pressure. I think playing on TV and having crowds come and watching what you play is certainly daunting. But I was so nervous in the changing room for the first game, just stepping into the spotlight, meeting people, implementing pressures – they just think ‘they’re athletes, all they need to do is go out and perform on the court.

“They don’t think, ‘okay, these guys are probably nervous about being on television.’ They don’t think, ‘they’re not doing this every day like other people are doing it.’ So, yeah, it is definitely something for people to think about for sure. And, you know, obviously the more you become familiar, the more you sort of kind of block out and ignore it.”

“And it’s exactly the same in the work environments. A new business skill. You know, it might be something as small as putting your hand up and asking for help the first time you need it in the workplace. And then the more you do it, the more familiar and comfortable you become. So yeah, getting used to the pressure. And I’ll tell you what, that was very useful in The Apprentice.”

After missing last year’s NSL Grand Final due to secret Apprentice filming, Edwards told us how she had to tell best friend and current Lightning player Hannah Joseph a white lie as to why she was missing the big event.

Edwards still has a passion for netball and plays with club Leyton in Essex where she captains her Premier League side. A huge passion for her is getting more men into the sport, so playing mixed netball is another hobby of the businesswoman.

Championing diversity and inclusion in recruitment, Edward speaks more about how she developed her career in the recruitment industry.

“So I worked in recruitment for quite a few years now. I think it’s a very good industry for those that have played sport because of the transferable skills within it. And I just got to a point in my career where I thought, if I don’t do this, then when would I do it? So I launched.

“We’re a recruitment agency – we are a interim management and search provider to private capital portfolio companies with senior finance hires. But we are very much underpinned with diversity and inclusion at the core of what we do, both internally and externally.”

When asked if she’d ever thought about applying for the show, Edwards said:

“I started watching the show last January and I had a message from my mum and then another two messages, which she said and her friends said, you should definitely apply, and I was like, no, I don’t know etc. And the next week the advert came on again on the TV and I was like, okay, well I’m just going to give it a crack and see what happens, because obviously Lord Sugar’s investments have been quite successful.”

“So I applied and I just kept on moving through the interview rounds and the next thing I knew I had a call saying, ‘you’ve got a place!’ So that was, yeah, pretty overwhelming and unexpected.”

Speaking about her experience on the show and what challenge she enjoyed the most, Edwards said:

“I was quite surprised with what I actually really enjoyed about about the process. I think there are very few environments that you get to work with people of different professions, different backgrounds with different skill sets on a business orientated task. And so for me, the real enjoyment has been working with completely different people that I would just never have got the opportunity to have worked with before.”

“I think there are certain skills which I don’t have, and being on the show has allowed me to have exposure of and also learn from other candidates with their skill sets as well as a good few people that are very strong around the creativity side, the marketing side and branding, which is something I haven’t necessarily had loads of exposure to.”

“Going through the process, you get to learn a lot. Those skills of other people. So that’s been a huge takeaway. And in terms of the process, I mean, yeah, it’s enjoyable. It’s really, really, really hard. Like you’re up at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning and you literally have 20 minutes to get ready. And I have to say, if I could praise my netball career in any way, it would be the ability to get dressed and out the door in 20 minutes for training back in university days! It was great discipline!”

Reflecting on the first three episodes, Edwards shared her experience on how it felt to watch herself back on the television and if she could go back, what would she have changed.

“I think in that given moment, you’re giving 100% and I think it would probably be really unhealthy and unhelpful to watch the tasks back and watch the episodes back and self-critique yourself. I think there’s always things that you can learn to do better, but I think in the moment that decision was made to the best of my ability and knowledge at the time.”

Referring back to working as a team, Edwards praised her team during task two for working together collectively.

“And if we reflect back on task two, with The Apprentice, actually the reason why the girls won that is because we we worked as a team. We listened to each other. And actually everybody respected everyone’s positions on that task.”

“I was Project Manager in episode three (aired on Thursday 15 February), and it was a great opportunity to show what I could do.”

Finally, when asked if there was any advice she would give to younger players who are thinking about heading into the business world as well as keeping up with their sport, Edwards advised:

“I’m a massive advocate for mental health and I think it needs to be shouted about how athletes attach themselves, especially if you know we’ve got athletes who train full time. As fans, we just see them for an hour every weekend on the telly.

“We see nothing throughout their week and how they could be dealing with things. So my advice would be to take time for you – how can you train to your fullest if you’re not looking after yourself?”

You can catch Flo Edwards on The Apprentice, Thursdays, 9:00pm on BBC1 and iPlayer.

To keep up with the latest news, make sure to follow the @NetballSL on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, Netball Super League on Facebook and LinkedIn, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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