Netballer looks to the future

Sheryl Scanlan retired after being plagued by injury but is grateful for the strength God gave her

Sheryl Scanlan
Sheryl Scanlan

Former elite netballer Sheryl Scanlan was a key wing and goal defender for New Zealand’s Southern Steel and earned 72 caps for her national team, the Silver Ferns.

Among Sheryl's many achievements include helping New Zealand win gold at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games as well as silver in the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games and gold and silver at the 2003 and 2007 World Championships.

Sheryl also played for the Samoa national team from 1996 to 1999 and played for the New Zealand Northern Force (now Northern Mystics) before changing to Southern Steel in 2009.

Her family has a strong family sporting history, with her father Lafeta Clarke a former Samoan rugby player and her brother Eroni Clarke a former All-Black.

“My priorities in life have always been netball, school and family,” says 35-year-old Sheryl, who began playing representative netball in school. “I went through the grades quickly, finding success and thus my significance.”

Sheryl points to the support of her husband Malcolm, her enthusiasm for the game, and, above all else, her relationship with God as the keys to staying strong relaxed and focused.

“I think the secret is to have a routine, accept help from friends and family and most importantly put God first in everything that you do,” says Sheryl. “It’s quite hard struggling with motherhood and netball. I really need the support of my family. It is extremely important to have good communication with my husband and let him know what is going on.”

Though thankful for her family, Sheryl says the source of all of her strength is her personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

“When I don’t put God first, my attitude is not right and I feel discouraged and frustrated. This affects my netball negatively. I’ve learned that putting God first, focusing on Him, helps me to rise above pressures and anxiety.

“Life is not perfect but I know God will always be there to forgive me when I don’t get it right and to give me strength to grow in Him.”

Sheryl says that she did not always believe this. “I grew up in a Christian home but only went to church for my parent’s sakes. I never really understood that I could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, so what I learnt in church went in one ear and out the other.

“When I was eleven, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour because I wanted to have the assurance that Jesus had forgiven me (for breaking God’s commandments), but through my teenage years netball became more important to me than God and I put Him aside to do my own thing.

“I knew God was there but I ignored Him.

“This all changed when I heard people give their testimonies of what God had done in their lives. I wanted to know God like these people did, so I rededicated my life to God.”

Sheryl was dogged by calf injuries toward the end of her professional career, but because of her relationship with God this has not harmed her positive attitude, even after she was forced to the bench after rupturing a tendon in her left foot in May of 2012, meaning she missed most of her final season.

She plans to move to Brisbane with her husband and son and keep working in netball as a coach or elsewhere in the industry.

Sheryl sees her netball ability as a blessing from God and, in a statement on Southern Steel's website, said that though she is sad to leave Invercargill she is “excited to see what the future holds.”

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