Friday, September 11, 2015

Shuffle Time

Netball has always been my game. As a kid I played tennis and hockey and basketball (very badly) but netball was the sport that I loved and have continued to be involved with throughout my life. I love the camaraderie of netball and the strategy of moving the ball from one corridor and one third to another. I love that the boundaries of each position mean no one individual can dominate (although I’ve seen a few centres try). Because of the designated playing areas, there’s no room for ball hogs and clever team work out plays individual brilliance, almost every time.
I love the aerodynamic fitness required and the way the momentum, and therefore the score of the game can change in a heartbeat.

We were a step ahead of the pleated skirts at Caramut
I love netball because it’s a thinker’s game. As the great Joyce Brown often said, 80% of what goes on in netball happens above the shoulders and that suits me just fine because my brain has always worked better than my legs!

When I was a kid we used to play here in town in an ad hoc sort of competition, run, I suppose, by our mothers, on Saturday mornings. We designed and made our own team outfits that we then teamed with our gym boots or Dunlop volleys. Nobody strapped their ankles or their knees and surprisingly I don’t remember any serious injuries. Mind you, looking back at the photos I think glamour may have been more important to us than speed, so maybe we just ran slowly!  

Guess what this team was called - The Zippers! Ha ha ha

As a teacher you always get dobbed in to be the coach of things and so apart from my many years on court, I’ve also spent a lot of time on the sidelines trying to get the best out of other players, usually kids. To be honest I think I’m too dithery to be a great coach. I get way too caught up in the game and my desire to be kind always overwhelms my ability to make tough decisions but I love it and I really enjoy the chance to work with kids outside the classroom environment.

I started coaching kids when Woorndoo entered the Mininera League nearly 30 years ago. Having had no netball competition in our previous league, we started from scratch and I coached all 5 teams, from U/14 Reserves through to A Grade. They were long days and we didn’t win many games in any grade for the first few years. Gradually though, thanks to the netballing dynasties of Mahnckes, Leskes, Milwards, Muirs, Bourchiers and Barrs we built to be a pretty powerful netball force and even though I’m not out at Woorndoo anymore I love following their continued success.
2004 13/U Premiers
My own daughters were born playing netball.  From the time she could walk, Jaime refused to leave home on Saturdays without her netball bib on. Sophie, quite literally, was almost born on the court given that I was at netball training 12 hours before she was born and back on the court 3 weeks afterwards. I think they’ve both been at netball training every Thursday night of every winter of their lives. And, thanks to their skill at the game I’ve been fortunate enough to watch them play netball right up to national level. I still get a thrill every time I watch my girls play.
That's Jaime in the C
Soph's first game

I stopped playing netball at 47 when the length of time taken to get over a game started to overlap with the time needed to prepare for one and apart from a couple of coaching stints with Nth Warrnambool teams I thought I was ready to be a netball spectator rather than a participant. Then I had a delegation from the Mortlake Junior Sharks with a request that I take on some junior development work with them. Taine was ready to start playing junior footy and the request came accompanied with  wine by some lovely people, so I thought, why not?
When the Sharks win, we shuffle!
Getting a successful junior program running is never easy. The first few years are always hard and it takes a special sort of resilience to front up every week knowing that you’re going to get thrashed. When I had my first season with the Junior Sharks I jokingly referred to it as my netball penance; having had so many successful years at Woorndoo, it seemed only fair that I see the other side of the coaching coin again.  However, it has been no hardship to work with this club or these girls. The club is run brilliantly, by people who really care about providing sporting opportunities for kids in our town. The girls are good listeners. They work hard and (mostly) they, and their parents, are really nice to each other and to me. When I started coaching this group 3 years ago, they were tiny little 10 and 11 yr olds, much too small for the 13/U competition but full of eagerness to learn and the grit to manage being walloped every Saturday. We set short term goals in the first season – let’s get beaten by less in the 2nd round than we did in the first; longer term in the 2nd year – let’s win more games than we lose and then this year – let’s make the finals.

Remarkably, that’s just what they did. Now they’re the big girls of the comp, finishing 2nd on the ladder with just 2 losses for the season.
And tomorrow, the Mortlake Junior Sharks 13/U team will play in the Warrnambool and District Grand Final. This is a BIG deal because it’s the first time the Mortlake Junior Sharks have had a netball team in the finals.  
Saahhh exciting!!

I’m writing this blog piece to fill in the time before bed because I’m nearly as excited as the kids. I couldn’t care what the result is tomorrow (although OF COURSE I hope we win). The important thing is we made it to the very last game of the year. We set goals and ticked them all off.  Everyone is better at the game than they were at the start of the year. I've been overwhelmed by the number of well wishes we've received and the number of supporters willing to turn up so early to watch and cheer. Our club and our town has a team to be proud of and everyone is enjoying being part of it. 

And next Saturday I don’t have to get up at 7am to get to the netball!!!

Shuffle on Sharkies.