Diamonds Coach Courting Success
By Jenny Sinclair
As far as coaching records go, Lisa Alexander’s is impressive. Inheriting one of our nation’s most successful sporting teams came with plenty of pressure and expectation. But Lisa’s built on this legacy with the Diamonds finishing the past year undefeated, with a Commonwealth Games Gold medal and are currently on a 19 game winning streak. This week’s World Cup, however, will prove her biggest test as a coach and she’s turned to some of the most respected leaders in sport in the lead up to the tournament.
An elite netballer and physical education teacher, Lisa started coaching when her family moved to the country town of Leongatha in Victoria for a lifestyle change in the 1980s. Lisa quickly rose the ranks to coach the Melbourne Phoenix to back to back title wins in 2002 and 2003. From there she was appointed the Australian Under 21s coach in 2006 -2007 before eventually replacing Norma Plummer as the national coach four years later.
“You don’t set out to be the Australian coach. It is a business where sometimes the opportunity comes up and sometimes it doesn’t. All the planets aligned for me in 2011, the opportunity was there, I had the experience and it all fell into place.”
In the lead up to the World Cup, Lisa has left no stone unturned and has consulted a variety of sporting codes and leaders including Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou and NRL mastercoach Wayne Bennett.
“There is always something to learn, so it’s pretty exciting when I get to go into, say, a Collingwood Football Club or a Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club, or have Wayne Bennett down to watch training who has been a hero of mine for many years,” Lisa told Sportette.
“To have him down and have his calm manner and the way he talks about coaching, and the seriousness he takes to come down from Brisbane to watch a session, because he respects what the Diamonds do.”
Complacency can always be a curse for successful teams and Lisa is determined not to let that happen to the Diamonds.
“Obviously we have had a lot of success, so success is expected, however the landscape in which we are playing has changed enormously. The achievements of today are huge when you compare it to previous years when you wouldn’t have had as strong an England or Jamaica, for example. You didn’t have the same sort of systems of high performance (in those countries).”
Another high profile attendee at the Diamonds World Cup training camp was legendary netball player and coach Joyce Brown. Alexander places immense trust in her judgement.
“I knew she would tell me straight how things were and whether they were working or they weren’t. Not necessarily about a particular technique, but more around my communication and how the sessions ran. She is a great observer of people.”
While Alexander values input from a wide range of coaching influences, it is clear that she particularly values Brown’s advice.
“No matter what profession you are in, it’s important to have a really good mentor who has walked in your shoes before, particularly for women. It’s a very holistic role she performs, not just technical but around the psychology of the team, the high performance expectations and how I balance that with me as a person and work on me.”
As the Diamonds look to secure their third straight World Cup title, the 51 year old goes beyond knowing her team as just players and takes a holistic approach to their lives.
“In order for an athlete to play well they need to have their off court and their on court work combining well. You know it’s not always going to be perfect, that’s part of life, but it teaches people to be resilient because they have balance in their lives.”
“I’m one of those coaches who believes in doing everything you can to help the athlete feel as well prepared as they possibly can be, for anything that they come up against. If you do, you will always get extra out of them, that one percent more outcome.”
Alexander firmly believes that continued coaching success comes from not only choosing the best players available, but ensuring she is selecting the best possible people.
“Their attitude allows them to grow as an athlete as well as a person, and enables them to see that there are areas of their game that they can improve. If they get into a comparative game between them and another person, then generally speaking they are always minimising the areas they need to work on.”
“Netball is such a combination team sport, and the more we do know and trust each other in a group, the better we will perform as a team.”
The Netball World Cup will be held in Sydney from the 7th to the 16th of August.