A few weeks ago an Australian coach quietly made history. Amongst all the noise and the hype of the AFLW, the winter Olympics, W-League finals and every other sporting code the feat of this woman slipped through the cracks.
You just missed it.
On a stormy Sunday afternoon in a controversial game with ejections, rain delays and home runs, the Brisbane Bandits secured their third straight Claxton Shield in the Australian Baseball League, defeating the Canberra Cavalry at home 4-2.
And in the dugout was the woman who made Australian sporting history.
Lisa Norrie was appointed as an Assistant Coach to the Bandits earlier this year and was in the dugout for the Bandit’s historic win. Her appointment in itself creates a crack in the “grass” ceiling of sport, as the first woman to coach in the Australian Baseball League (ABL). With the Bandits victory she has claimed a trifecta of feats … first woman to coach in the ABL, second woman to coach in a Australia men’s national league (Peta Searle claimed the first title in 2014 being appointed to the St Kilda Football Club) in Australia and now the first woman to coach on an Australian championship team (in any sport).
There is little surprise that it was the Bandits who opened the door for 42 year old Norrie to make this history. The Bandits have always been about leading the pack. They were the first to appoint a female General Manager, Kate Dobie in 2014, and this year created two firsts – a “three-peat” and a female coach.
With innovation comes success, and the Bandits can claim success. As can Norrie. This appointment comes as just reward for her dedication and commitment to the game. Observed by Bandits head coach, David Nilsson as she mentored female Queensland team squad members alongside the Bandits squad, he recognised her capabilities and offered her the role.
Norrie was initially worried that she might not be accepted in the team due to her gender, but with the support of both Nilsson and Bandits CEO Mark Ready, the entry was surprisingly easy. Says Norrie “Initially I thought that I would be mainly observing, but David gave me the opportunity to coach third and first base, throw to hitters in batting practice and hit fungos (fielding practice) in training.” These responsibilities firmly position Norrie as a legitimate member of this history making team.
Norrie’s resume includes Assistant Coach for the Australian Women’s National Team (the Emeralds) in 2014 in Korea, where they knocked the intimidating USA team out of medal contention with her coaching first base. She has previously managed and played on the Queensland State Team, and also has a long history in softball as a Queensland representative. Having been around the game a long time, Norrie tells of her experience with the Bandits that “baseball is baseball, there wasn’t a lot new around the game itself, however I learned a lot being exposed to the professionalism of the team, and the behind the scene processes like managing different personalities, pitching rotations and bullpens (to get the most out of players and staff).”
Norrie will again join the Emeralds when they vie for the title of World Champion at the 2018 Women’s World Cup in Florida this August. She hopes the experience she has gained being part of the Bandit’s elite environment will help the Emeralds campaign. Adding that to her second time around on the world stage, there is no doubt she will contribute to the Emeralds success in 2018
But before then she has a unique task … to supply her ring size to the ABL. A long standing tradition of baseball is the championship ring, and no offence to her husband Chris, there is no doubt this piece of jewellery will hold pride of place on her dresser at night.
We all look forward to the time when a female coach is not ground breaking. But until then we will continue to celebrate the successes of the pioneers like Lisa Norrie that pave the way for future generations of women in sport.
Article written by: Narelle Gosstray – Non-profit professional, sports diplomat, women’s sport advocate and volunteer, specialising in governance and strategy. Baseball Australia, Monash University. Via LinkedIn