A class above, Sonia Mkoloma is a 5-time world championships player for England Netball. If you met Mkoloma on the netball court you would be facing-off with a tall, athletic and strong defender, wearing only her game-face. It’s likely you’d soon label her your toughest opponent. But meet her on the street and you’ll find she is an outgoing, friendly, fun-loving and down-to-earth Londoner. In fact, she’s the quintessential gal from Notting Hill.
36-year-old Mkoloma is a true example of what world sport is all about. Born and bred in London, England, she has not only represented her country with 117 caps, played in the UK Superleague for the London Hurricanes, but has also taken the chance to bring her netball career to Australia and New Zealand.
In the ANZ Championships, Mkoloma has made an impact playing for Mainland Tactix Christchurch, Central Pulse Wellington and more recently, the NSW Swifts. Her immeasurable value to UK Sport was recognised in 2013 when she was inducted into the England Hall of Fame.
I caught up with Sonia at the World Netball Cup as she competes for England. Sydney plays host this week to 32 teams from across the globe.
Name – Sonia Mkoloma
From: Notting Hill, London, England
Position: GD/ GK
Number of England caps: 117
- under21 captain 1999-2015
- England senior: 5 netball world cups (2015= 5) (highest ranking bronze)
- 3 commonwealth games. (Highest ranking bronze), England co-captain
- Inducted into England netball hall of fame 2013.
Netball Australia & NZ (ANZ Championships)
ANZ: 2008-2014 played central pulse (won ANZ joint most valuable player)
2009 tactix , nz
2010-2014: 5 season with NSW Swifts; awarded NSW swifts players player
How many years have you been playing in ANZ championships?
7 years playing season.
You expected last year’s season with the NSW Swifts to be your last. How did you feel being called up for England?
Not being named in the swifts last year after being told I had one of my strongest seasons definitely came about unexpectedly. I felt unsure about my playing future and was left in a “who moved my cheese?” Limbo, (Book by Dr Spenser Johnson). Not knowing whether to play or not was hard and I put alot of effort into coaching and co-coached Sydney University state league division 1 winners this year, along with being the Assistant Coach of the NSW under 19 state team and won the national title this year!
So with all this coaching I was definitely getting itchy feet. I was called up to play in the UK for England test v Trinidad and Tobago, and for the netball Europe tournament against teams like South Africa and Scotland. I was super excited and eager to play. I felt honored and stepping out to the national anthem after all those years brought tears to my eyes and a whole pool of emotions.
What fears/expectations do you have coming back to play this year?
My greatest fear was letting myself down! What does that mean and look like for me? I honestly didn’t know. So this haunted me for a bit. I wanted to make the World Cup team for this year, so this was my only focus coming back to the UK and into the England netball set up. I have high expectations of myself out on the court, as I’m highly competitive and will give my best at any given time.
What is it that you love about netball?
Netball is my passion and has done so much for me as a sports woman. It has opened countless doors and created experiences for me, so much so that I have decided to give back and created my coaching company ‘STIXSON‘ which empowers young girls to succeed in life through engagement and sport.
What was it like being a female athlete in London?
It was tough. I played a variety of sports growing up, with netball being the one I knew least about as it wasn’t on TV and you didn’t see females in the paper who were playing it. I had no role model in this sport, my friends didn’t play or understand my passion for it and I didn’t really understand why I was dedicating so much of my time to this game. I would spend my weekends on trains and buses going to training sessions and games, when all my friends were out in London partying and living the London socialite dream on the weekends.
It was definitely hard being at the top of my game and not getting all the perks the boys at the top of their sporting careers were getting.
How did you start playing netball?
I started in school as a 13 year old and loved the game ever since.
You have come over to play netball in the ANZ championships, what did you experience as the main culture differences?
I think the main differences for me were the obvious lack of diversity within the teams. I had come from London which was very multi cultural and so was the make up of our schools and sporting clubs. In New Zealand and Australia, I was the only Afro Caribbean on the team, so I had to share with the girls my cultural differences and experiences so they got a clearer understanding of who I am off the court. They also had to come to grips with my thick west London accent!
I have to admit that it was crazily different for me and scary at times being so far away from home and all of its comforts.
England now boast several players who’ve been playing in the ANZ championships, do you think this will increase England’s chances in the world cup?
I think the experience of the team going into this World Cup will definitely increase our chances of performing to our best.
Teams to watch?
I think the top 3, Jamaica, Australia and New Zealand, are all teams to watch.
What does a netballer’s training schedule look like?
Our schedules are pretty full on and consist of a lot of multi tasking. We are not professional athletes, so still have to hold down full time jobs and train as full time athletes. It is a full time commitment to do the both.
How do you like to keep fit outside of netball?
I like to enjoy my down time when I can, but I tend to go on long interval style runs and get involved in any team sport that’s going. I’m not a fitness freak, so I’m happy to just have fun.
What do you believe women’s sport could be doing better?
I have definitely been playing for the love and not the money. I think we need to keep supporting women to be top athletes and potential parents. This will be through financial support and internal support systems being set up.
You’ve played 5 seasons with the NSW Swifts. Have you adopted Sydney as your second home?
I have changed and grown a lot in 5 years and Sydney is becoming my second home without a doubt.
If you weren’t a netballer what would you be doing?
I would be a model or a youth case worker. You pick!!
THE UPSIDE to being Sonia is fulfilling my passions for netball, travelling and having fun in one big bubble!
Sonia wears THE UPSIDE’s Baroque print.