Commonwealth Games England caught up with former Team England Netball star and current England Netball head coach Tracey Neville as the team sets its sights firmly on the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games to discuss how Team England and the Commonwealth Games has aided the development of Netball.
TE: Tell us about your fond memories of the Commonwealth Games
TN: One of the things that really stuck out for me at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games was that I was taken on a holding camp and with it being Netball’s first time in the camp I was so appreciative of Team England in integrating the sports and I thought that all sports would be separate but I just felt that Team England was excellent in creating that cohesive environment – it was ‘one for all and all for one’.
It is a really addictive environment to be in, in terms of success and you can tell when someone has succeeded as it has a domino effect through the whole team and was a proud moment. And to have experienced two of those, it seemed to get better and better.
TE: How important is the Commonwealth Games to Netball?
TN: Being in a major competitive environment that is integrated with other sports is a massive learning for us all, as coaches or as players.
Obviously not being in the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games is one of those steps towards the Olympic Games and I feel that the cohesive environment is a real education in respect to success.
We always talk about having belief as coaches or athletes but if you are not mixing with other sports and you haven’t achieved before, it’s the culture and diversity of it all that gets you through and I think that gold medals are achieved not only by talented individuals but by the coaching and environment that surrounds them.
That is what has moved Netball on as a sport.
TE: How are preparations going for the next couple of years in the build-up to Gold Coast 2018?
TN: England Netball is trying to move towards the next step and the Commonwealth Games is a massive part of the journey towards the 2019 World Cup.
We have started now to put processes in place that are in our control and have moved some of our players to a full time status, changed our training around to a camp-based programme which is quite heavily dominant in Loughborough throughout the year, we are re-tendering the NFL so we have more domestic competition and also have our players going out to the ANZ to get much needed experience and that is all in the process to the Commonwealth Games.
TE: It will be nice, but challenging, to go to Australia and take on the Aussies in their own back yard though won’t it?
TN: Having been at a World Cup in Australia, Gold Coast 2018 is going to be a really tough task for us to take on the Aussies on their home ground, but as I say we are taking the necessary steps that are in our control to get us into that medal winning contention.
TE: What’s next on the schedule for England Netball?
TN: We go into a camp-based programme in June and from there go onto an international tournament in Zanzia – which will see us go against South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – and it’s great to have that in our international calendar.
The great thing about the next four years is that we have a really structured international calendar where we will play against the top teams on a regular basis twice a year. We also have a whole series against Jamaica in the winter as part of the build-up to the Commonwealth Games.
TE: What’s your #BestOfEngland?
TN: I think the red of England is such a vibrant colour and for me just speaks resilience, it speaks education and it speaks excel. They are the words that come to mind when I think of that colour.
Even from outside of the camp there is a great Team England ethos and everyone buys into that anthem, that passion and that thrill to make England achieve.