Niamh McCall is the product of a hugely successful schools sports programme.
Now in her fifth year at Strathaven Academy, she is in the under-17, under-21 squads – and last month she achieved the dream of playing for the Scottish Thistles – the senior international team.
Niamh started playing netball in Primary 5 at St Patrick’s Primary in Strathaven. The school was involved in a “Game On” programme run by sisters Gillian Crozier and Emma Parker.
“I also played rugby when I was younger, but it was when I was in first year at the Academy that I started taking netball seriously,” explained the 16-year-old, who plays goal attack.
Now she is a member of a superstar class of netball players at her school – Strathaven Academy has a magnificent eight players in the Scottish under-17 squad.
Joining Niamh are Chloe Alexander, Emma Barrie Dionne Dorricott, Ann Fleming, Caitlin Hinchcliffe, Molly Letitia and Gillian Thomson.
Not surprisingly, the school has won the Scottish Cup three years in a row.
“I started in Scottish squads at under-13 level and I was 14 when I first got into the under-17s,” continued Niamh, who has recently switched clubs from Avon to East Kilbride.
Her first cap for Scotland was when she was 13 and playing for the under-15 development team in netball Europe in Worcester.
Her first match for the Thistles was last month’s double-header against Northern Ireland in Edinburgh – it was one win apiece.
This season is going to be hectic. Next on the agenda is the under-21 Netball Europe tournament in Wales next weekend (6-9 October). It is a qualifier for the World Youth Championships.
Then, next year, there is the under-17 Europe Netball tournament in Belfast.
“Hopefully, we will qualify for the World Youths and we’ll be going to Botswana for the finals next year,” she said.
As a member of three national squads, Niamh trains five days a week and has had to take a step back from school netball this season.
But she is not ignoring her studies. She is sitting five Highers – maths, english, biology, chemisty and history.
“It’s certainly going to be a busy year,” she agreed.”I’m not sure what I want to do when I leave school. Maybe science, or something related to sport.”
Does she regrets she chose netball over rugby? “No,” she insisted. “But I think the rugby practice helped. I didn’t really play in any specific position. I just caught the ball and ran.”