SEVERN Stars head coach Melissa Bessell believes that being a mother should be celebrated in sport and not see not be seen as a" barrier".

The playing and coaching staff at the franchise includes five mothers with 17 children between them – enough to field two netball teams.

They are former New Zealand international duo Cathrine Tuivaiti and Liana Leota, Fiji international Dee Bolakoro (also a Lance Corporal with British Army 22 Engineer Regiment), plus head coach Melissa Bessell and assistant Christine Weaver.

Bessell said: "As the likes of Serena Williams, Laura Kenny and Jessica Ennis-Hill have perfectly illustrated, becoming a mum shouldn’t in any way become a barrier to taking part in sport at any level. In fact, it should be celebrated and embraced.

"As a diverse and inclusive organisation, we’re really proud that so many members of the Severn Stars family have had children and are now back playing or coaching at an elite level in the Vitality Netball Superleague.

"We firmly believe that with the right support system in place, being a mum and playing netball can be combined, should the player wish to do so – it shouldn’t be a case of being able to do only one or the other.

"All our coaches and players share our commitment to providing everyone at Severn Stars with as much support as we can to ensure they’re able to perform at their highest level on and off court.

"While some of our players and coaches have nannies to help with their child-caring responsibilities, they can, of course, also always count on support from a team of adopted ‘aunties’ – their coaches and team-mates!”

Stars will play their opening match of the Vitality Netball Superleague season against Surrey Storm at Resort World, Birmingham on Saturday 5 February, followed by a clash with Manchester Thunder the following day.