‘World class’ is the name of the game for England netball’s Head Coach Anna Mayes, as she looks to build on recent successes for Glasgow 2014.
With the Commonwealth Games just over 12 months away, Anna is hard at work developing her skills as a coach having earned a place on UK Sport’s exclusive Elite Programme, whilst juggling a PhD and a full-time job at the same time.
Her aspiration is to become a world class coach in charge of a world class England netball team, and recent successes over Australia and Jamaica are just the first step on the road to this goal.
Back-to-back series wins have propelled England’s netball team to new heights, but Anna believes that future success is far from guaranteed and improvements can always be made.
“Although it was history-making and as a team we have taken significant steps forward both psychologically and physically, both the Australians and ourselves were missing players” she says.
“Australia can never be underestimated and we cannot and will not rest on our laurels. Despite the series win, there was no game in which we produced four consistent quarters.
“That is a goal we need to achieve in order to beat Australia and New Zealand in the coming months when winning really matters.”
Despite seeing room for improvement, she is rightly proud of her team’s achievements. The 3 – 0 series win against Australia in January was the nation’s first, and the opening match in Bath was only England’s third ever win against the side from down under.
Anna believes great progress has been made on and off the court. Interest in both the team and the sport has been generated and she is closer to her aim of England’s netballers becoming household names.
“Beating Australia was a fantastic achievement by the team, one that I am incredibly proud of.
“We’ve all really enjoyed the ‘buzz’ and interest that it’s created in our sport. We've been very fortunate with the great support off the back of the series wins from the likes of Sky Sports, BBC Radio Five Live and national newspapers.
“It’s all generated much attention from the public, other sports and other commercial links. I'd really like to see it to gain more momentum as we build up to Glasgow though!”
Beating Australia and Jamaica is just the start of what she hopes will be regular occurrences on the road to shaping a world class team.
As Assistant Coach at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, she worked with a talented team that gave New Zealand and Australia a run for their money, and believes that building upon those experiences will enable the nation to push on over the next four years.
“In 2010 we had a very talented team that won bronze and the core group of our current players and I were part of that valuable experience.
“If we build on the experiences of those games and utilise the growing talent that is coming up from our academy programme, we will be in a very strong position to push on in 2014 and 2017.
“I believe we are building a team which has the right team culture, work ethic and understanding of what it will take to be world class.”
‘World class’ is a term that Anna is very familiar with, having been selected to be part of the inaugural intake of the UK Sport World Class Coaching’s Elite Programme - an achievement she is rightly proud of.
The Elite Programme takes already successful coaches with the aim of making them ‘world leading’ coaches with whom ‘brilliance will be business as usual.’ Just ten coaches are selected, making Anna part of a very exclusive group.
“I’m extremely honored and feel very privileged to be part of the programme, especially when only two of the ten selected coaches were from non-Olympic sports.
“I love learning and enjoy being put out of my comfort zone to try and make me as good as I can be! If I want my players and in turn my team to be world class, I have to pursue that challenge too. I want to be world class.”
“I’m also working on my PhD which is based upon an autoethnography methodology (a form of writing that is based upon personal experiences).
“It utilises reflective practice on critical performance and life experiences, to examine the learning processes and experiences that help coaches to better cope with the organisational and performance demands of the elite coaching environment, and thus enhance coach effectiveness.”
Anna became England’s Head Coach in November 2011 and describes her first 18 months as ‘full on’. She is quick to pay tribute to her coaching staff which includes Commonwealth Games England’s Athlete Representative Karen Atkinson.
“I don’t think anything fully prepares you for the task at hand. I am very fortunate to be working with such a great Senior Coaching Team in Maggie Jackson, Colette Thomson and Jan Crabtree.
“Then of course I work with a talented group of players, as well as very talented and hardworking technical coaches; Karen Atkinson, Tracey Neville, Jess Thirlby, Kathryn Ratnapala, Anna Carter, Jo Webb and Olivia Murphy.
“Their support certainly makes my job easier and I am only one part of this 'team’. England wouldn't be able to live up to its true capabilities if it wasn’t for all these great people!”
England’s aspirations of achieving world class status will face no tougher test than the Commonwealth Games next year.
Glasgow 2014 will be Anna’s fourth Commonwealth Games following two as a player and one as Assistant Coach. Her excitement and anticipation for the Games is obvious.
“I believe I already have a great support team and we are building a fantastic group of players, so why wouldn’t I be looking forward to such a great challenge? The Commonwealth Games are huge for netball.
“All of the top nations are there and it’s a chance to be part of something that is bigger than your sport. There’s nothing better than stepping out into that arena for the opening ceremony for the first time, representing your country at a major event, and standing side-by-side with your fellow team mates.
“As it’s in Glasgow, it’ll be like a home Games for us. If we can generate anywhere near the support and interest that the nation gave to the London Olympics it will be tremendous!
“I've seen and heard about some of the hard work that is going on behind the scenes and it looks like it’s going to be a fantastic event. It’ll be our job to stand up and deliver as a sport.”
And on the small matter of a potential rematch with Australia next year…