By Megan Armitage
Netball star Lydia Harrison hopes expanding her connections both on and off the netball court can fire her all the way to the Youth World Cup.
The 18-year-old Loughborough Lightning Pathway player is part of the U19 Roses Academy and revealed that time on the international scene holds some fond memories.
With a Roses camp in November bursting with new people and playing opportunities, the midcourter is pleased to have an extensive sporting network all around the country as preparations ramp up for the 2025 Youth World Cup in Gibraltar.
"My camp in November was brilliant," said Harrison, who benefits from financial support from Boost Drinks – a company born over 20 years ago with a vision of energising everybody in every way and is committed to supporting its local communities, whether this be fuelling them with its range of Sports, Energy, Iced Coffee, and Protein Drinks, or by getting more involved to help them achieve their goal.
"It was all about developing connections - we're quite a new squad so it was really nice to be in camp with all the girls.
"It was about introducing new girls into the academy, learning those key principles and knowing how we execute them.
"We had a game against Wales U21s on the Sunday, which was where we tried to consolidate what we had learnt.
“It was really nice to be challenged during that game as they have some great players.
"Everyone gets on really well because we do similar things. And when you do club competitions with your franchise, it's great to see all the England girls.
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“It’s nice to have so many connections with people all over the country."
Harrison was affiliated with Leeds Rhinos netball for the majority of her teenage years and will always hold a soft spot for the Super League team's role in her development.
But studying at Loughborough University brought along the opportunity to train and build connections with a second franchise in the form Loughborough Lightning.
Alongside her own team and coach Josie Pointon, Harrison now has the likes of Lightning head coach Vicky Burgess and a raft of experienced players at her fingertips.
"Rhinos was a constant for me having been there for five years, so it was hard to make the move to Loughborough as I felt like I had some loyalties to them," added Harrison, who is one of over 1,000 athletes in the early stages of their career supported by SportsAid each year.
"But I knew that Loughborough University was the right place for me and where I wanted to go.
"It was emotional leaving Rhinos, but I've always liked how Loughborough coach and how well the franchise is connected, meeting a lot of the Super League girls.
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"If our full-time coach Josie's not there, then Vicky will step in quite frequently, which is brilliant.
"A lot of the Super League girls play for the university team as well, so it's nice to play with them regularly."
With the 2023 World Cup in South Africa this summer and access to some of England's best netballers, Harrison has lofty ambitions for her own career in the sport - including the 2025 Youth World Cup in Gibraltar.
She said: "My aim for the next few years is to become a training partner for a Super League franchise and then eventually play in that starting seven.
"That's obviously a big step, but it's the ultimate goal.
"England-wise, there are a few competitions coming up later in the year with talks of a tour, so I would hope to be selected for that.
"And there's a Youth World Cup in 2025 – so I’d love to be selected and go to that as well."
Boost Drinks provides young athletes with financial support, recognition, and personal development opportunities through its partnership with SportsAid. Each athlete receives a £1,000 award which contributes towards costs such as travel, accommodation, and equipment – for more information visit www.boostdrinks.com