When she discovered her coach had cancer, Lowri Haf Barker didn’t think twice about helping out with training sessions at Mold Netball Club. She was just 16.
Two years later and her coach, Chris Elson, was too unwell to carry on coaching. So it was Lowri who stepped in:
“I took over in the September. But after every session, I would talk it through with her. She coached me to be a coach. I owe so much to her.”
Bear in mind, Lowri was just 16 and coaching girls between the ages of 9 and 15. At the same time, she was studying for her GCSEs. And, of course, Chris’ her close friend and ‘absolute idol’ was losing her battle against cancer:
“She died six months later; she was only in her mid fifties. Just a week after she passed away, I achieved my level one coaching course, which I think means I was always meant to coach.”
And the biggest thing she has learned from her mentor is respect:
“When you’re young and you turn up at training, you natter with your friends. But when I started helping with sessions, I realised that when people chat, it makes the job of a coach so much harder. You need to have respect for coaches. Chris didn’t have to turn up week in, week out. It was her choice to be there to help us.”
At the young age of 21, Lowri is enjoying great success on court. In the last 12 months, she has coached two Under 15 teams to play in the Wales club finals in Cardiff. She has coached the most successful Under 13 club in the Deeside league. She has had league winners in younger age groups and a number of girls have been selected to play for county and inter-county level. She is bilingual and has helped coach the local Welsh primary and secondary students to success in Urdd competitions.
In just four years, she has increased the number of teams from six to 11 and this summer introduced under 7s into the club.
She spends 13 hours a week coaching and there’s all the paperwork and planning on top of that:
“I need to be very organised. I work at Grosvenor Street Physiotherapy and I am studying Complementary Medicine at Glyndwr University so I need to make sure I’m not falling behind.
The biggest reward, according to the young coach, is knowing the girls are enjoying netball, as much as I did with Chris. And if Lowri collects a gong at the Wales Sports Awards, it will be dedicated to her coach:
“Any award would definitely be in tribute to Chris. I owe it to her to keep the club going strong. She was an incredible lady.”