When the coach at her daughters’ netball club was forced to step down, Samantha and another parent decided to lend a hand on a temporary basis. That was eight years ago. Now, with a number of coaching courses under her belt – she is still at the helm. And the club is certainly going places.
So next time you moan about not having enough time, spare a thought for Samantha O’Callaghan. The 38-year-old is a care worker and has five children. Yet she still manages to spend ten hours a week coaching and organising Ebbw Vale Netball Club. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she is also the Welfare Officer for the Isllwyn Junior Football League.
“Until you sit down and actually count up the hours spent on the club, and I don’t just mean coaching, I’m talking about all the behind the scenes work like banking the money and planning the sessions – you don’t realise how much of your life you devote,” says Samantha.
“But it’s all worth it. I love seeing how the players progress and how their personalities shine through. Playing at the club gives them a social life outside school and it boosts their fitness and confidence too.”
In 2014, Samantha successfully led the merger of the then Ebbw Vale Junior Netball Club with the local senior side, after realising they were losing all their players to other clubs from the age of 15. She runs tri net teams, seven junior sides, three mixed and two senior teams. She is also a mentor to three coaches, 15 young leaders and five Young Ambassadors.
“When I started, we had about 11 girls. Now we’ve got 85 girls on the books aged between five and 15. And that’s not including the seniors, our total numbers are up around xx. Its been a long journey but all the hard work has paid off.”
She ropes in her family too with her eldest daughter Georgia coaching and Ffion helping with younger players.
The club does break over the school summer holidays. But there’s no rest for Samantha, that’s when the netball camps kick in at Ebbw Vale Sports Centre.
“It was such a shock to hear I was a finalist. I didn’t even know I was being nominated. I am quite nervous, I can go and coach the girls no problem at all. But to be shortlisted by a panel of experts and to attend a ceremony with so many amazing sports stars, well that’s a totally different kettle of fish!