Matilda McDonell holding a netball
UNSW Law and Psychology student Matilda McDonell spoke to Arc Sport UNSW about empowering women to become active

SHE CAN is Arc Sport UNSW's participation program, which encourages women and minority genders to stay active while studying by offering tasters of different sports and creating awareness of the different ways to get active on campus. SHE CAN integrates into Active Women: UNSW 2025 Women's Sport and Active Recreation Strategy and forms an important part of the participation pillar.

Along with students involved in dance, yoga and running, Matilda spoke about the importance of being active while studying and how she balances her demanding Law and Psychology degree with playing in the world's best netball league, the Suncorp Super Netball. Matilda ran through her impressively busy weekly schedule now that her training with the Giants has resumed.

"At the moment our schedule is changing each week because of coronavirus. Our season starts in seven weeks so we get a full season of 21 weeks. For the past two weeks we’ve been eased into it. It’s still killer sessions, but we haven’t been allowed to be training as team yet, we’ve been training in blocks of five and six. At the moment in our schedule on Mondays we do weights and conditioning...And then for me, I go and do uni for a couple of hours and we all have fairly frequent calls with our doctor at the moment, getting our bloods done and organising our flu shots, so that’s all going on as well. On Tuesdays we have a court session, which usually goes for around three hours in total with getting there, strapping and getting ready. On Wednesdays we do weights again and cross training and then we usually get Thursdays off, so on Fridays we do a triple session – court, weights and cross training...And on Thursdays you work on extras, so for me I’m trying to work on catching. It sounds really basic, it’s a basic skill that you learn when you’re young, but when you keep going up the pathway, those basic skills need to be really on point, so for me that’s something I’m continuously working on. At the moment we’ve got free weekends, but I don’t think they’ll be free for very long, because the season is coming up and we always play on Saturday or Sunday."

Matilda McDonell making her Super Netball debut in 2019
Matilda made her Suncorp Super Netball debut in 2019 and was the league's youngest contracted player last season. Photo: Giants Netball

Matilda also spoke about how, despite how busy she is, sport is such an important element in her life as a student, even when she's not in competition. She encouraged her fellow students to find something they love and jump into being active on campus, even if they feel a little nervous about it.

"Sport has been such a stress relief for me personally. And just exercise in general, even if we have a rest day, I’ll try to do some yoga, even though I’m not very good at it, I’ll go for a walk or something like that. I think if you’re new to sport, don’t be daunted. I think a lot of girls hesitate because they think ‘I’m not going to be good enough, I’m not fit enough, I’m not fast enough.’ But at the end of the day, no one cares as along as you try as hard as you can. Just have fun with it! You know when you’re younger and you try six different sports and you just go with the one you love the most, it’s a similar situation. But most of all, just don’t be daunted by it because it’s supposed to make you feel good. If you’re too embarrassed or too shy to join a club, just start at home. There are so many resources out there – just find what you enjoy and have fun!"

The webinar contained plenty of great insights into different ways to get active and showed a common thread of concerns and worries among students from those just getting started in fitness through to professional athletes. You can watch the entire video on the Arc Sport Facebook page.