In the first year of the programme we’ve amassed a formidable team of some of the UK’s best and brightest who represent female coaches across the sporting landscape. We’ve been able to produce a series of short interviews with each of these ambassadors with a view to sharing their experiences and personal stories about their journeys through coaching. Each of our ambassadors has a slightly different take on what inspires them to coach, be their best and strive for continuous self-improvement.
Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to meet our latest recruit, Anna Mayes. It was a meeting almost 9-months in the making, over which period I had to developed some cunning investigative skills and a thorough understanding of Twitter in order to secure some face-time with one of England’s brightest coaching stars. Anna is one of the youngest National Team coaches in England, but has a resume that
would be the envy of many experienced coaches much older than the Swindon-born Mayes. Now living in Cardiff, Anna has been part of the national system for more than a decade, first cutting her teeth as a Welsh International player, before getting into coaching in her late teens.
Anna’s passion for coaching is self-evident. During our brief interview it became clear that Anna believes in the power of coaching not only to develop performance, achieve athletic potential and win medals. She is equally excited by coaching’s ability to affect people in very personal ways at a variety of levels in a variety of places across the globe. When discussing some of her early coaching experiences, she sites visits to some of the poorest parts of Africa, where their passion for sport was in no way diluted by their lack of resources. She describes this early coaching experience as ‘humbling’ and a great way for a young player taking their first steps onto the international stage to ‘stay grounded’.
Anna knows that in spite of the investment England Netball made in her and other young coaches like Jess Thirlby and Karen Atkinson, it was a risk to appoint her to the top job in Netball at the tender age of 30. However, its clear that her passion for the game, understanding of coaching and willingness to spearhead a new era of English netball is what set her apart from other worthy candidates. She spoke with great clarity about her desire to create a style of ‘Englishness’ in Netball that was not determined by the the Southern Hemisphere nations (Australia and New Zealand) who have dominated the sport for the past 30-plus years.
“I want England to be No#1 in the world. I want us to be World Champions. I want to be the best coach that I can be and I want to be world leading.”
What’s more interesting is Anna’s desire to influence the game at every level. Not satisfied with changing the game at the elite level, she understands that to create a distinct style of play at the elite level, means developing the game from the ground up. She wants to work with other staff at England Netball, coaches, volunteers and officials to develop a new level of excitement throughout the game, which is much more than about developing champions.
I’ve spoken to a lot of coaches over the years and more than a few have been stumped when asked about their coaching values. In fairness, its not a question that comes up in the vast majority of coach education workshops or qualifications (an issue we plan to tackle over the coming months). Nevertheless, Anna was clear and articulate, explaining that her four main values are: –
- Respect: for each other as players and coaches – “treat others as you would wish to be treated”
- Honesty: this way everyone, including coaches, can hold themselves accountable and words are backed up by action
- Hard Work: as coaches you have to be willing to work as hard as your players
- Trust: the coach leads, but the players have to trust and confidence to follow
Just Do it!
Anna’s message to aspiring female coaches is simple…
“Just do it! I’m passionate about people, I’m passionate about the sport and I love coaching. If you can align yourself to a club and find a mentor, that’s the first few steps, but there is no right or wrong way, just get out there. Do it in your style, embrace the experience and the environment. Its not always going to be plain sailing and its not always going to be enjoyable, but most of the time, its [probably] one of the best jobs in the world.”
Not enough time…
We spoke about so many things in our 30-minute conversation and yet I got the impression we could have talked for hours. Following our chat Anna was rushed into a pre-production meeting for Sky Television’s ZEO National Super League coverage or the NSL Semi-final between visiting Hertfordshire Mavericks against home favourites, Surrey Storm in a match which saw another Project 500 ambassador, player/coach Tamsin Greenway, lead her team to victory. The full interview will be posted in a few days time, so check back in with us towards the end of the week.
In closing we want to thank Anna for her time (we were one of only two non-Commonwealth Games related appointments that Anna will be keeping between now and the Games). Personally I left the interview totally energised and excited that we have secured a powerful ally to promote our work and inspire thousands more coaches to get involved and take that next step into coaching. We’re hoping to entice Anna to support a couple of events over the next 12-months, providing we can drag away her from an already challenging schedule of coaching and academic commitments. At the very least we plan to utilise Anna’s expertise in a series of blogs over the next year, so again watch this space.
Interview by CJ Lee, Coaching Development Manager, Coaching Hampshire & IOW