Karyn Howarth on playing for the Melbourne Vixens while getting a degree

When Karyn Howarth was selected to join the Melbourne Vixens and represent her state in netball, she was already well into her Business Administration degree at Monash University. Karyn chats with us about why she loves netball, how she made it onto an elite team, and how she managed to juggle it all with her studies.

What did you study?

Business Administration at Monash University

When did you complete your studies?

I completed this degree in 2009 however I have recently started studying to become a qualified personal trainer – what better way to put all my hard work and healthy eating into practice!

Tell us a little bit about how you got into netball. When did you first start playing, and why did you stick with it?

Growing up in a big family (1 of 7 girls) I have always been surrounded by a healthy sporting spirit as well as competition. Both my parents played quite competitive netball in Melbourne so it was only natural that I tried it for myself.

I was about 7 years old when I first joined my junior club (Memo Rovers) in Alice Springs and from that moment I loved playing.

At 14 I was talent identified and joined the Northern Territory Institute of Sport. This later proved to be a successful move, launching me to my first national experience as I made the Brisbane Firebirds at the age of 18.

Throughout the years I have moved into different teams each providing me with amazing opportunities and friendships both on and off the court – and for this reason, through the hard work, sweat and tears, I choose to dedicate my life to netball.

How did you become a member of the Melbourne Vixens?

In 2008 the netball competition had a restructure and went from the Commonwealth Bank Trophy to the ANZ Championships – this saw seven Australian teams reduced to five and an introduction of five New Zealand teams. Unfortunately my team was one that missed out.

After disappointingly missing out on a spot in the new teams I moved to Melbourne to focus on my studies and find full time work. During this time I represented Victoria in the Australian Netball League (a feeder program to the national teams) for three years and was lucky enough to get an opportunity last year to join the Melbourne Vixens.

What are your favourite aspects of being a member of the team?

I think my favourite aspect of being a member of the Vixens is the strong friendships you develop – the girls become a second family and you enjoy the highs and lows of the competition together.

What motivated you to undertake study alongside your netball career?

There isn’t a lot of money in top level female sports in Australia so this means that  pursuing your sporting dream - or life after retirement - will require a full time job. The reality is that all the girls are working or studying, either full-time or part-time.

Was it difficult to balance a university workload and student life with playing elite sport?

I would love to say that it was really easy to manage my time but unfortunately this isn’t always the case! Typically my day starts at 5.30am and I don't get home until around 8pm, so I need to ensure I have EVERYTHING packed for the full day ahead as I can’t afford to forget anything - this typically involves packing about 4 bags!

The biggest saving grace however is the great resources and assistance that is provided to all elite athletes. Monash being an elite athlete university certainly makes life a lot easier with the flexibility and resources to rearrange your studies if you find them conflicting with your sporting schedule.

What are you doing now?

After completing my studies I was lucky enough to be given a contract with Monash Sport as an administrative assistant.

Do you have any advice for young Australians who want to pursue sport at an elite level?

I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is that the journey isn’t always a smooth one – there will be bumps along the road and mountains to climb but the hard work, sacrifices and determination is all worth it in the end.