Building Towards my Best in Birmingham

Emily Nicholl is Vice-Captain of the Scottish Netball team, the Scottish Thistles, heading to her second Commonwealth Games. She’s also a qualified lawyer and works at Pinsent Masons. Follow Emily on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. You can follow the Scottish Thistles here.


“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to have the courage to live it”

12 years ago, I found myself sitting in the Ally McCoist centre in East Kilbride after having been given some free tickets to watch my very first professional netball game (Scotland v Australia). Little did I know that Claire Brownie (now Maxwell), who was playing at the time, would not only become my teammate and captain in years to come but would also become part of my inner circle and Commonwealth Games roomie. When I saw how athletic the teams were, how fast the ball moved and how physical the game was, I was instantly hooked. I became a die-hard Aussie Diamonds fan and still have the game day ball from that match that I won in the raffle.

As you can probably tell, not only am I dedicated to being a netballer but I’m also a super fan of the sport – it would absolutely be my mastermind topic.

Fast forward a lot of years and I now find myself going to my second Commonwealth Games as Vice-Captain of the Scottish netball team, facing our first match in which we’ll play against world number one Australia. When I saw the schedule, my inner netball geek couldn’t quite believe it, but if you’ve seen me play you’ll know that regardless of who I come up against, I’ll put my body on the line for the team and won’t stop until the final whistle goes. With the competition starting so soon, our preparations are in the final phase and I can honestly say, I’ve never felt more prepared. We’ve had a series of camps in Glasgow where we’ve fine-tuned our game plan and have also managed to fit in some axe-throwing, scavenger hunts and other team building. Thankfully, the singing contest planned by our coach had to be postponed!

Netball Scotland is currently working towards creating a “bold new era” and I may be biased but I think that this is the most exciting period of Scottish netball to date.

Despite our coach being appointed in the height of the pandemic and the fact that we never got to meet her until 6 months into the role, I cannot fault our lead up to the games. Tamsin Greenway’s appointment has brought out the very best in our squad – she constantly challenges us but has instilled a confidence within the group which has been crucial with only four athletes (including myself) having been to the Commonwealth Games before. It is definitely a young and exciting squad that has been selected and I can’t wait to see what we put out on court.

Heading in to my second Commonwealth Games, I feel as if I have such a different approach this time around. I know what to expect, how to manage my nerves and also how taxing the schedule can be. Unlike other sports, the netball competition runs through the entire competition.

In 2018 I was so excited just to be there, to see famous athletes and be in Australia. I was probably naïve and didn’t appreciate how much of an impact the one percents can have, such as sleep, nutrition and recovery. Now more experienced, I recognise that this is a competition and I am there to perform to my absolute best for my country.

Don’t get me wrong, when we all kilt up ahead of the opening ceremony, the excitement levels will be through the roof. Although technically this isn’t a home games for Team Scotland, we are absolutely treating it as one. We’ve got all of our friends and families coming to support us and there is no more special feeling than running out into an arena filled with Saltires – I really can’t wait. I also have to give a shout out to my two nieces, Evie (3) and Ava (1), who are travelling down to support me. Knowing that they are watching me play for my country means the world to me. You have to see it to be it and I really hope that I can play a small part in showing them that they can be anything they want to be.

Just writing about the Games has got me feeling fired up but until we get there it is going to be important to keep our heads down, stay focused on ourselves and our prep. For now, it is back to the reality of life as a solicitor before finishing up for the games!