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Jools Murray

Jools Murray
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Name: Jools Murray
Sport: Strength & Conditioning - Netball
Role: Lead S&C Coach for England
Organisation: England Netball / EIS
Nationality: Canadian
Date: Apr 2018

Jools Murray is the Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach for the England Netball Team who recently returned home from Australia with the Commonwealth Games title…the first time in history the Championship has not been won by either Australia or New Zealand.

We first interviewed Jools way back in June 2015 as the then Assistant S&C coach for England Netball and a Ultimate Frisbee Head Coach and player.  Since then, Jools moved back to her native Canada to coach more Ultimate Frisbee and even take a Silver medal for the Canada Master Ultimate Team at the World Championships.

Having moved back to England, she took up the role of Lead S&C coach for England Netball 7 months ago and shares her experience of working with the team and her part in their historic win.

 

I still get emotional about it! I just feel incredible pride to have been part of it and knowing what really went in to that win.  I’ve only been with them for 7 months, they have been grinding all kinds of stuff for so many years, I just came in for the cherry on the top, but I am so very very proud.

 

I am a big advocate for women in sport and the things that sport can bring women such as confidence, friendships etc.  That is just so powerful, I love that I got to be someone who supported that happening.  You can feel the change vibrations, this is just the beginning.

 

Sometimes women’s sports are judged as not as exciting as men’s sports because they can’t run as fast, or jump as high, etc…but anyone who watched that Netball final would be in no doubt of the physical specimens these girls are and that is so exciting to watch.  It’s very physical, its very fast and its everything good sport should be!

 

So for me, that win has given me the confidence in the decisions I made in their physical prep choices and I am much clearer on the strategies I now need to bring in place around the clubs in the UK.

 

 

We had quite a long build up in Australia before we went into the athlete village as we were on a holding / prep camp.  The camp had a couple of different stages to it in order for the players to peak to where they needed to be.  We didn’t start high end right away, it was a period of time to let them adjust and be where they needed to be in order to perform.

 

The way my job works is to give guidance and loading strategies for the athletes; the sessions they do that day and the knock on affect they have the next day, working out what the coach wants and making sure the physical sessions as well as the coaching sessions all flow properly.  You don’t want them tired in a technical session for example.

 

It’s a balance between giving them the stimulus of lifting weights whilst not getting tired and not letting them get weak at the important times.

 

A big part of my job was working with the Tracey Neville on the schedule itself, making sure the day to day loading strategies were correct and then when things needed to change, making it adaptable.

 

You’ve got to be adaptable, you do have a strategic plan, but if things come up then you have to adapt depending on how the athletes were reporting their health and well being scores and what the coach was seeing in training.

 

 

Yes you do.  It’s very easy to sit in my own World and to see things purely from my side of things i.e. the physical stress and adaptation. You have to think about what the Head Coach is looking for. You might find out that suddenly she wants to put on a new session, but you need to know what kind of session it is, will it be taxing, will it be just a discussion session…so it’s important to have that relationship with the coach and make sure you have an understanding of the bigger picture to understand how the work you do fits into the big picture.

It’s been a process.  I have been lucky because England Netball had an excellent strength and conditioning coach in before I started, so the sport had already ‘bought’ in to the services.  So that side wasn’t too hard to work on.  I think the bigger growing point for me was the previous S&C Coach didn’t travel with the team.  The team needed to understand the benefit of me being around and it gave the coach a bit more assurance about some of the decisions that were made.
From the athletes point of view, they really like having me there.  I think sometimes they get bored for example doing the same warm- up…this group love having fun, being there allowed me to change things so they weren’t just doing the same exercises every time.  It also allows me to judge how the girls are performing with regards to fatigue and energy levels.
Daily monitoring of their loading and giving recommendations as to when some athletes needed a rest perhaps was also really useful.  Different positions and different games take different loads from individual athletes.  Athletes perceived output is different, so I have to monitor that.

I am calculating their loads in games, which include training load multiplied by their rate of perceived exertion.

 

So for example, if you and I did 60 minutes of the same cardio, but I hate doing cardio – I would report that as a 9 / 10 RPE, if you love cardio you would report it as maybe inly a 4 / 10 RPE.  That means my load for that session is much higher, even though we both did 60 minutes.

 

That is how we monitor load.  Certain players in certain positions or certain positions in a game become much harder for them against different teams.  So even though they are playing 60 minutes as Wing Attack in both games, one RPE may be a 9 where as one may be a 6 RPE.

 

My role is not a decision making role, it’s simply feeding the information to Tracey for her to make the decisions.  Tracey is the one who has all the understanding of what needs to happen and when.  I just give her some objective information to help her make those decisions.

 

I think the biggest thing for me is not having to agree with a decision that has been made that I don’t agree with.  As an assistant you just have to deliver what you are told, where as now the decisions are on me.   However, I am now accountable for those decisions!  So if I get them wrong I can’t blame anybody else!

 

Thats a great challenge.  It’s also great that I can explore the best ways I think I can give support to the sport.  Yes S&C is about the physical prep of the team, but the way it can be done and linking in with others such as the Doctor, Nutritionist and Performance Lifestyle, can then look very different.  I have really enjoyed that side of it all.  I am learning a lot, because at no point does an athlete completely sit in your realm (i.e. just S&C or just Nutrition etc), they transition through all of us. It’s important to identify who is best to deal with various factors.

 

I have loved all of that, I feel I can actually make a difference.  Sometimes when you are delivering someone else’s program, you learn a lot because you see the results of their decisions.

 

 

It is a very female dominated environment.  I would say a huge positive is the players wanting to understand everything and taking a genuine interest in why decisions are made and the reasons behind them.  I think women in general very rarely just take the answer and get on with it, they want to find out why.  That creates new challenges because athletes ask so many questions, so you do have to have that justification of your answers ready!  The questioning and challenging is a natural thing within this realm, it’s not negative, it’s part of the culture within the sport.  And that’s why it’s growing the way it is, because no one is passive with this group.

 

The negatives which can sometimes come with that is that when things need to get done, they are held up a little bit because there are the challenges and the questions to deal with.  If things aren’t put together in the right way, it can sometimes be taken personally.

 

I think though that more and more thats becoming less the case.  The skills for me personally in navigating this kind of environment I have grown so quickly.  Previously when I have worked in heavily dominated male environments, my growth took a lot longer because things weren’t explained as much.  Part of me felt like I didn’t understand why decisions were being made.  That’s not always the case in male dominated environments, but much of the time it’s just accepted what someone says.  When me as a woman then questions or challenges those decisions, I am seen as a trouble maker, that I am challenging rather than trying to understand.

 

 

When women come together, its so powerful.  It takes longer to build a team of women, you have to go through some difficult periods because there is some times when it gets really ugly, but when you get through it, the bond that is created and that supportive nurturing and coaching each other is incredible.

 

Tracey is excellent.  She puts the athletes on the spot, she forces them into uncomfortable situations where each one is being challenged to lead their peers.  Because she has done that, everything has been evened out.  The younger members or the less experienced members still have times when they have to lead.  So everyone gets the experience of leading but also being quiet and supporting the others.

 

It has been a phenomenal experience working with this team.  Yes you do have to go through some ugly times, a lot of teams would give up because of this, but once you get past that, you hit the sweet spot and the team becomes unstoppable.

 

 

They actually came in and spoke to us and did a session with the players, sharing their own stories and what they went through to win that Gold in Rio.  The hockey team made a valid point when they said that being part of a team like this isn’t for everyone.  And that’s when the coaching decision comes in; do you select someone who is very talented, but detracts from the nurturing environment of the team, or do I chose someone who maybe a bit less talented but who is adding to the team environment.

 

Coaching decisions at this level are tough, you’ve got to have balls of steel to make them and really back yourself in your belief as to why the environment is that important.

Yes, I would! We have a lot of banter, I think we are naturally quite fun people, so its a really good atmosphere.  It hasn’t all been sun and roses, we have been through some stuff, but no body gave up and we stuck with it.

 

Our next big target is the Netball World Cup which is in Liverpool, England in 2019.  That was the remit of the role when I applied, so until 2019 I will certainly be here.  After that, believe it or not, Netball loses all its funding, so who knows what will happen after that!

 

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