Carla Borrego: why I had to be pushed into netball

Sirens netball star Carla Borrego has told how she had to be pushed into netball as a teenager and didn’t think she would make it as a player, writes Isobel Irvine.

As they prepare for only their third home game, after scoring their first win in Glasgow with a 51-45 success over Team Bath, Borrego told Sportswomanmag.co.uk about the passion which has driven the Sirens players in their debut season.

Borrego underlined the players’ appreciation of the home support the side has enjoyed during their inaugural season and how confidence is growing.

“With Sirens being a new team we’re building, but the support we’ve had thus far is tremendous,” she said. “The enthusiasm, energy and attitude of the players is quite remarkable, too.”

Jamaican cap Carla is one of a number of overseas players recruited to the side along with the cream of Scottish netballing talent. With so many diverse routes into a squad that was put together relatively quickly, how have the ladies bonded?

“It’s an amazing bunch of girls whose passion is netball,” Carla said. “We come together, we work hard and everything is for the greater good of the team not personal gain.

“We understand we’re building [a team] so it will take some time to get our chemistry completely together based on where we started and where we are. But there’s so much energy, buzz, passion and enthusiasm!”

Reflecting on her personal journey, however, Carla’s route in the sport wasn’t what you’d call textbook.

“I was pushed into netball,” she said. “Growing up I was always quite tall and lanky and didn’t have control over my motor skills so I shied away from anything that would put me on a stage.

“My high school coach came to my class and put me on a stage, however, when she decided I’d play netball!

“I told her I didn’t think I’d be any good at it because I couldn’t even walk without tripping over so how was I going to play this sport? But she persisted and wore me down and started my journey – and I’m happy that she did.

“You can coach everything except height and passion and I had the first – I’m not sure the passion was completely there at the start because it was embarrassing for me to play and be tripping over!”

Carla’s determination to progress saw her get on to her high school team, which she captained throughout, and was soon elevated into Jamaica’s under-16 squad.

“I didn’t quite fit in as the girls were quite advanced in their skills and their motor abilities,” she recalls, “but people saw my potential and strong-armed me into the national team.

“My coach then moved me from the country to the city, which was quite overwhelming – not just adjusting to the netball but from country to city life. I moved into the national under-21 squad – I wasn’t confident enough to get onto the team but the coach supported me and I played for the national senior team eventually, in 2003.

“That was when it kind of clicked – I can do this if I just believe. Everyone had been believing in me except me.”

Lining up for the first time against Australia, who arguably had the best defence in the world, Carla not only held her ground but was also one of the prolific shooters.

“That’s when it hit me. I saw what everyone else had seen and the passion grew as I saw all the hard work was paying off. I don’t get concept until I see physical proof”

Travelling to America for four years to play college basketball Carla subsequently had the offer, on graduating, to go to Australia – through an approach via Facebook!

She recalls, “By that time, I’d gained some confidence in my abilities, my motor skills were fine tuned and I’d developed an aggression and a passion – I love the competitive spirit and I’ll fight until the last whistle, I’ll never give up. I’m going to fight for that ball!”

Her first year in Australia saw her lauded as the standout shooter in the league and her side won the cup. Though standing down from playing in Australia in 2016, she admitted to still feeling the passion, the adrenalin rush and the buzz for her sport. The added pull of a top coach in Sirens’ Gail Parata, and a desire to share her experience with a new generation of players were the selling points to her journey around the globe to the Emirates in Glasgow.

“And I like a challenge!” she added. “I like new things, diving off into the deep end and seeing what happens. I’m passionate about netball and although I have to respect where I’m at – an older athlete, so I have to listen to my body – I know I have more to give back and more learning to do.”

That learning doesn’t just cover the netball court but has extended to studying nursing with Sirens’ partners and sponsors, University of West of Scotland, a journey which continues to increase her knowledge and confidence.

“I believe it takes a while for females to gain their confidence but I believe sport is a good way to do that,” she enthuses. “Not only will you gain confidence but you’ll be supported by women around you who are doing similar things – having that support network and being around strong, feminine women is just a great confidence boost.

“Just being passionate about what it is or what your abilities are – you have to be confident at where you’re at to be good. I’d love to be the kind of athlete to identify those girls and help them to become confident and know who they are, more quickly than I did. Once you get it, you get it!”

Sirens are in action again in their round eight league game against Surrey Storm (Saturday 8 April, 2pm, Emirates Arena).

After the victory over Team Bath captain Claire Brownie, who was awarded player of the match said: “ “I’m extremely proud of the team’s performance. We showed great mental toughness and resilience against an experienced Team Bath. We loved being back at home after a tough five weeks on the road, and the support we had was amazing, the crowd definitely helped us across the line.”

You can read a preview of our Sportswoman Magazine Sirens feature here http://bit.ly/2n9dv36

Tickets are available on www.sirensnetball.com.