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Chatting with ... Beth Dyke

It's been a rollercoaster year for Beth Dyke and one her 'netball family' have helped her ride. She chats with Rachel Argyle at Sport Wales about being back in the red dress ...

"I can't believe it's been over 14 months since my accident" she tells me, as we chat before her Wales netball training session at the Sport Wales National Centre.

The accident she is referring to is the one that cut her second Commonwealth Games experience short, when she injured her ACL at only the second fixture of the Games in the Gold Coast.

"It was a late-night game against Scotland" recalls the 24-year-old.

"It was all so surreal and devastating. Team Wales were fantastic and it all happened so quickly with tests and results."

Inconsolable, her teammates rallied around her.

With a rest day the next day, they stayed up late and allowed the news to sink in. "It was really horrendous" she adds.

"In a team sport, there's a real impact on each other."

Luckily, Beth's family were out in Australia and able to support her to come to terms with it.

"It took a day to help me switch my mindset and understand that I could still make a positive impact on the team - we all had a job to do out there."

Beth was overwhelmed with the support, cards and well-wishes she received from other countries. "You don't realise how many people care. That was the biggest take-away for me - a reminder of the positive side of sport, especially team sport."

Post-surgery last May, she started the slow road to recovery.

"It took six weeks to get the swelling down and do simple tasks that you take for granted, like learning to walk properly again" explains the wing-attack.

While the process was monotonous, it was important for her not to rush back.

I asked her how she kept her spirits up during these months. "I set myself really small goals" she explains. "When I was told recovery could take 9-12 months, I needed to break that up into achievable weekly goals."

She didn't put any pressure on herself. "You can read about ACL injuries and what you 'should' be doing by a certain point, but you have to focus on yourself and not compare - everyone is different."

The Bridgend netballer was back on the court for the Celtic Dragons nine months later.

She recalls: "I felt fully supported coming back gradually and the positivity of the team helped motivate me."

That's the main thing, knowing that the next generation is being inspired - they will be the ones coming through in years to come

The Dragons fans gave Beth that extra boost.

"We have the most amazing supporters, who will wait up to an hour after the game to get photos and autographs" she explains.

"That's the main thing, knowing that the next generation is being inspired - they will be the ones coming through in years to come."

Being a role model is something Beth sees as a positive opportunity. In fact, she's used the past year to do her teacher training, sparked by her own love of PE as a child.

"I had a really positive experience of PE at school (Brynteg Comprehensive) and it made me want to be a PE teacher" she adds.

With netball not being fully professional, having a career has always been an important goal for Beth.

She stayed on at Cardiff Met to do her Masters, before working at Millfield School and taking her teaching qualification. "I've always focused on my life outside of netball" she adds.

"As a teacher, for me, it will be about understanding different pupils. Not all will enjoy competitive activities.

"I enjoyed a variety of sports, from the competitive ones to the more creative activities like gymnastics and dance."

Sport was a huge part of Beth's upbringing and she lights up talking about the positive influence her family had.

She recalls: "Growing up my family were really sporty. My dad played a lot of rugby, my Mum played quite a bit of netball and swam. Me and my sister watched a lot of sport even before we played it."

School opened up opportunities for her to join clubs - including netball.

"I started playing in the school team in Year 4 or 5" she explains.

"I was really lucky, as lots of my friends played netball and we went all the way through school playing together."

But it wasn't all about the netball for Beth, who took part in a diverse mix of sports, from lifeguarding, trampolining and gymnastics.

"I was keen to join as many different activities as possible and I enjoyed them all. Sport offered me the chance to meet new friends and have that social side."

Fast forward a decade and Beth has been selected for the Wales squad in the forthcoming Summer Test Series and is looking forward to playing back at the Viola Arena.

When she's off the court, how does she get that balance between life and sport?

"I'm working on it!" she admits. "Planning my time is a massive one for me, especially having had a unique year with teacher training and rehab."

She adds: "I like to spend time with family and friends. My boyfriend lives away so that's a logistical nightmare so it's all about organisation and leaving time to relax!"

She tells me how last year's injury put things into perspective for her - "It was a reminder that things don't always go to plan. No matter how much work you put in to get somewhere, things can change quickly."

With the World Cup on the horizon, the profile of netball is set to get even bigger, something Beth says they all need to take pride in and not lose sight of.

She explains: "Netball is a sport that most girls played at school, but England's Gold at the Commonwealth Games gave netball a brilliant boost and the coverage is getting better. It was disappointing for Wales not to qualify but we're looking forward to the Test Series and playing some of the best players in the world right now. Hopefully, the upward trajectory continues."

So why should we join the crowd?

"Until you come down and watch it, you don't realise just how exciting a sport it is!" exclaims Beth.

And back to full fitness and optimistic about the future, she heads up to join the rest of her squad.

For tickets to the Summer Test Series, visit here.