Harry and Meghan go head-to-head in netball shootout at coaching awards ceremony at Loughborough University

Robert Jobson
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Meghan Markle today showed what we all knew already: Royals, even the trendy new recruits, are different from us commoners.

It is not that they are wealthier, or prettier or even in some cases smarter, it's the fact that only royal duchesses like her or princesses would consider playing netball in expensive designer high heeled shoes.

The duchess, now 37, showed off the peculiarities of royal sporting wardrobe management when she and the duke visited Loughborough University for a sports award ceremony.

Meghan was also wearing an Oscar De La Renta top, and Altuzarra trousers: netball classics both of them. If you are a member of the royal family.

They were joined by sports stars including Paula Radcliffe, Mark Ramprakash and Laura Robson for a netball shootout game.

The Duchess of Sussex at the Coach Core Awards (Getty Images)

It was husband against wife. Harry, with the thrusting competitiveness for which he is known, if not the sensitivity and discretion, led his team to a 3-2 victory over Meghan's.

In the eyes of one of Prince Harry's team mates, 7ft 1in former basketball player David Robinson, that may have been a mistake.

“You've always got to put your wife centre stage,” he said. “They are newly married, so he is learning that.”

Robinson, 53, who used to play for the San Antonio Spurs, said it was “great fun” meeting the royal couple. “I told them that obviously netball is a bigger game here than basketball, but it was fun working with the coaches. They said they love basketball and it will grow here. I said you will need to grow some 7ft 1 in guys, that's all.”

Their meeting allowed the Duke of Sussex to show he is a good observer.


Former England cricket legend Mark Ramprakash, who saw Harry meet the former NBA star, said: “He went up to David and said 'what do you play, chess? That was very amusing.”

The couple were there for the Coach Core awards, marking the achievements of recent graduates from a scheme launched by the Royal Foundation in 2012 to train the next generation of sports coaches.

Mr. Ramprakash, now batting coach for the national side, described the Coach Core students as "very positive role models" after running two cricket sessions earlier at the university.

"The young people came from all different backgrounds, parts of the country their attitude was great, they were open and they wanted to learn and they really had a good energy about them."

He said about coaching: "You want to try and create a rapport as a coach, you want to show that you care as well - show you're taking an interest and if they feel that they're much more likely to take on information."

The Duchess of Sussex attends the Coach Core Awards at Loughborough University (PA)

Presenting the award for graduate of the year to Sebastian Vidal, the duchess said that the “incredible inspiration and sense of purpose” that Coach Core instilled in people was “astounding”.

Harry said in a speech: “Being a coach isn't just about helping an individual get active, or training the next person who's going to become a world record holder.

“It's so much bigger than that. It's about being a role model; it's about being professional, relatable and inspiring.”

He added: “Sport does not discriminate. But lack of support and barriers to access do, which is why the role of Coach Core fostering this raw talent is absolutely vital.

“Sport can inspire and invigorate, and as we have seen today, with the right opportunity, the right mentoring and the right focus, lives can be changed.”

Before the awards ceremony the duchess met a pair of identical twins the couple met earlier this year in Birmingham, Luke and Elliott Rainbird, 20, who promptly quizzed her on whether she had seen the new series of Suits.

No, said the duchess, who equally promptly turned the conversation back to Coach Core.

Isa Abdou, 20, who also met the duchess in March, said: “She was really excited to see how we had progressed.”

At the award ceremony it was announced that Sport England has awarded The Royal Foundation a £995,500 National Lottery grant to double the reach of the Coach Core programme by adding 10 new sites in England over the next three years. Coach Core has so far trained more than 300 16-24-year-olds who were not in education or employment.