|Role:||International Netball Coach; former Wales & Fiji Head Coach|
Melissa is an international netball coach who has travelled the World coaching the sport she loves. Originally from New Zealand, Melissa has had many netball coaching roles including being Head Coach for the New Zealand Maoris team, Fiji national team and most recently the Welsh National team. In her interview below, we hear how New Zealands passion for sport has rubbed off on Melissa and how her coaching philosophy brought Team Wales up the World rankings from 19th to 8th.
You can read more from Melissa in our blogs section as she shares more of her experience and passion for netball.
The culture in NZ is pretty amazing. It has been ingrained in us that to win is something to strive for. Striving for success is something to be proud of and winning is the Ultimate. I have grown up in a family that is super competitive, even monopoly can get pretty ugly in our household. Christmas time is awesome because it’s a massive sporting event with our family we compete in Tennis, swimming, netball, cricket, Péanque (for my Nanny), puzzles and over the last few years lawn bowls has been introduced. Usually names must be drawn from a hat as well, not that we are all competitive or anything.
Sport within schools in NZ is paramount. It is symbolic to all schools and means so much to the students to compete and represent their school. It’s a matter of pride and ‘mana’ which means prestige, power and effectiveness in Maori. Most schools now have very strict rules in place for the attendance of certain schools due to not just the academic side but the sporting performance side. So strict guidelines and barriers of where you must live within the school location are in force now. Which proves the importance of sport in the schools in NZ. The competition within the secondary school sector is immense. I can say that now after living in the UK for the last five years. I think it is something that must be addressed, soon, as the future talent for all sports are living and breathing within the schools. The future sporting heroes and heroines, role models for the future are all in our schools. The reason the southern hemisphere are so strong in sport and seem to have athletes being produced like robots is because every children plays some type of sport in school and the competition is ‘fierce’, regular and pathways are clear and concise to the top. Netball is very popular with most girls within NZ and there are hundreds of children, young girls and older women that crowd most courts during the week and on the weekends. It is just the ‘norm’ and is a great way of life.
My Mother is a very good Netball Coach, She is also an International Coach and has coached NZA, Samoa U21s and Seniors and is still coaching NPC in NZ now. She was my coach as a player coming through and has been my rock and mentor still to this day as a Coach. She is the most amazing, inspiring, determined and straight talking women and coach I have ever had. I am always calling her for advice and support and always will, I have total admiration for her. So I suppose you can say, ‘it was in my blood’.
My coaching philosophy is:
“Motivate, Inspire, Mentor and Coach leading Principals and Beliefs within a Team to be Successful, ‘On and Off’ the court but ultimately for Life”
I am a straight talking, honest no frills Coach, Fair but hard. I am respectful of each and every player and understand that ‘respect’ must be gained and earned. I treat people how I would like to be treated and am so passionate and love my job and this reflects in my coaching. I smile and have loads of fun doing it. Ultimately the holistic approach is the most important to me. Understanding the ‘whole’ athlete is important and vital to inspiring and getting them to ‘fly’ as I always say. People and Team are important to me and I love making athletes believe they can ‘Do It, and Do It well’ there is nothing better for a coach to see people achieve – nothing!! I know this type of philosophy that I have has helped the relationship between ‘Coach and player, player to player, parents to coaches and players to parents’ it has formed a great relationship which helps the athlete to learn how to communicate, self-reflect as well as feel comfortable enough to reflect within the team as a team. This is so important to create honesty and trust which develops ‘Believe’. So important within a team.
Belief, honesty, fun and total commitment.
To me it was no different, as coaching is coaching but I think it was a lot different in the fact that I was the National coach for Wales who was coaching within a domestic competition in an England competition. Where other coaches were coaching for their ‘area’ or NSL franchise, I was coaching for Celtic Dragons to strengthen our National team. This was only because we were, and still are, the only team outside of England in this competition. Although I used the ‘import’ card I think it was a great experience for the players to work with other players from different cultures. The import players brought a different flair and style to the team which I feel gave the players a different view of the game, it opened there eyes to a different way to play the game. The NSL competition is very good for Wales and it is, without a doubt, the most contributing factor to why Wales climbed the rankings as quickly as we did. I suppose this is a great example of how and why competition is so, vitally, important.
Being part of the Grand Final was amazing. The crowd was blood bubbling exciting, that year the Celtic Dragons fan base grew over 100%. We had so much green in the crowd that travelled up to watch and support and the noise was crazy. The best thing about that game was not only was it goal for goal all the way until the last 2 minutes of the game but my Mother travelled all the way from NZ to watch it, so it have her in the audience was thrilling for me.
I think if anyone was to read everything I have said so far in this interview this question will be answered. I think the true passion of sport in general comes shining through as a Kiwi. The support and camaraderie that we have for each other, the competition from school to club right up to age groups and NPC to NZ level is amazing and speaks for itself. Even though NZ came 2nd, again at the World Cup just last month to Australia. It has only ever been NZ and Australia that has seesawed the Gold and Silver standings and our competition and structures are very similar, so it speaks for itself really. Look these are my own personal views and I don’t want to upset anyone or organisations but all I want is for Netball to be played more, at all levels, and hopefully one day soon, Netball will be in the Olympics.
Look I don’t want to upset the male race here and I don’t have any problem with males being involved in Netball, it’s a great sport. I actually think that playing against the Men’s netball teams is really positive for top female teams. However, what really grates me is that you don’t see or hear of many woman coaching male Rugby and Football teams do you? Men dominate sport and Netball is a female sport so why would they want to start coaching Netball? I am not saying that men can’t coach and that they shouldn’t – I say ‘Good on you, hope you enjoy it and good luck’ …. I’m just saying ….. Bleat finished with and please all men out there don’t read this then get upset and feel the need to send me your thoughts. I was asked the question and I am not going to write a fib it’s just my views.
Get tough skin, don’t believe everything you read in the media and don’t read too much in the media either. Find inspiration and Believe in yourself and go with your ‘gut’ and smile, never second guess yourself.