Teacher Ashley Hall did not take long to learn the Isle of Man is the perfect place to combine a career and family life with sport.
Ashley, who originates from Altrincham in Cheshire, moved to the Isle of Man in 2005. As well as teaching and bringing up two children with her police officer husband David, she is captain of the Isle of Man netball team.
That team is beginning to make a name for itself on the international stage, after setting up as a nation team in its own right rather than an English affiliate, and also on the domestic front – it won the team of the year category, amid stiff competition, at this year’s Isle of Man Sports Awards.
Ashley, who lives in Peel with David and their children Robyn, nine, and Niall, six, explained how she came to live in the Isle of Man.
‘I met a friend at university who was from the Isle of Man and we used to visit here,’ she said.
‘I worked for three years in Manchester but I used to love coming so much I thought I would see if there were any opportunities to work here, and there were.’
Even before she came to live in the island, one of the things that struck Ashley, was that whenever she visited there was a community event going on. Even coming from the edge of a big city, the Isle of Man seemed busy to her.
After her arrival, she was struck by the vast array of sport on offer, both at a high level, and for those just looking to start out.
She is not the first to discover that, once you join a club or a team over here, a whole network of friends opens up to you, such is the nature of island life.
As well as joining Ballasalla netball team and breaking into the national side, Ashley played hockey and women’s football, although the latter two had to take a back seat once family life put even more demands on her time.
Netball has seen huge growth in popularity, both in the Isle of Man and further afield, in recent years.
The Isle of Man netball team has really found its feet internationally, competing abroad and earlier this year winning the Netball Europe Open Challenge. That tournament was staged in the island with the Manx Rams, as they are known, inspired to victory by packed houses cheering them all the way at the National Sports Centre.
‘It’s great how much netball has come on in recent years,’ said Ashley. ‘To be cheered on by so many people really gives you a sense of pride to represent the Isle of Man.
‘Women’s sport has grown in the UK and here, especially netball. It’s great to see.’
Ashley is not the only netball international in her family, though. Her sister, Jade Clarke, plays for England!
She is very pleased that she has made the choice to live in the Isle of Man.
‘I love it here,’ said Ashley. ‘I was on holiday recently and someone asked me if you could choose to have a house anywhere where would it be.
‘I really thought about it and I thought how I probably would get a bigger house but I wouldn’t move from Peel!’
To live in a town where the harbour and beach are just a few minutes’ walk away is a big plus, she said, as is the countryside across the island.
She added: ‘People often ask me if I would move back, but I think the island is a great place to bring up children.’
Not surprisingly, she encourages others to give serious consideration to moving here, but to make sure they do their research, on everything from re-registering your vehicles to checking how it will affect any workplace pension scheme.
‘As long as you are prepared, then it is not too difficult,’ she added.