In episode 26 we talk with a netball superstar, Tamsin Greenway. As a former England international, a former England coach, a Sky Sports pundit and now Director of Wasps Netball, she has a unique insight into the whole sporting system.
We discuss the challenges and rewards of being an England player and then coach, how she is building Wasps Netball from the ground up, and the impact Sky Sports broadcasting is having on the sport.
Tamsin Greenway is a former England international netball player, former England coach and now Director of Wasps Netball. Greenway guided Wasps Netball to the Vitality Netball Superleague title in the club’s inaugural season – her third consecutive title after back-to-back victories with Surrey Storm.
THE TRANSCRIPT BELOW WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, WE CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.
TX: 01.2.18 – Ep 26. Tamsin Greenway – the playmaker on and off the court
HOST: TAMMY PARLOUR
T: Welcome to a Question of Performance. I’m Tammy Parlour and in this series I’ll be talking with leading figures from sport and business about what improves, limits and drives performance. Join me for 20 minutes of discussion twice a month to hear a range of views and what it means to be successful, how to cope with failure and what people have learnt along the way.
TP: Today I’m talking with Tamsin Greenway. Now if you know anything about netball you’ll know who Tamsin is. She’s an absolute legend, a real superstar in the sport. I’ve met Tamsin on a few occasions now and I’m consistently struck by her drive. She has a genuine appetite to learn and to influence and a real ambition and determination to shape her sport. As a former England international, a former England coach, a Sky Sports pundit and now director of Wasps Netball, Tamsin also has a unique insight into the whole sporting system. We start the interview reflecting on her time on the court. I ask her has she always known she was good?
TG: Um, mm, yeah, no. I knew I was, I was always very sporty and netball was always my passion. At age ten I think I came home from my first ever session and got back to my mum and said, “I know what I’m gonna be now. I’m gonna be a netball player for England,” and she went, “Okay, we’ll see.” But it was kind of always something I wanted to do.
TP: What was it about that session?
TG: You know what? It’s bizarre because when I think back at it now and I always say to my mum, why the hell didn’t you put me into tennis or golf or something where I could have made some money or I could have retired rich. No, I love team sports so I played all sports anyway. First passion was football, ‘cause I was surrounded by boys. But I still remember that session. I remember the white board and us learning about the positions. I just loved being part of the team and I was a showy little goal attack that would shoot from anywhere. And I just, yeah, I guess I liked the whole social side of it as well and the fact that you could, yeah, you were playing with loads of other people. So I always knew netball was the way forward and I kind of got to an age at fifteen, sixteen where I knew I was probably better than others. I could hold the team together; I could make the team win. So yeah, I kind of knew I was there. I didn’t know whether I could make it all the way but I had a massive determination to give it a go.
TP: So much as changed in netball since you came onto the international stage, and I believe that was 2005.
TP: From the kit to the audiences, Sky’s involvement. What change do you find most exciting?
TG: Just the engagement with youngsters I guess, just that passion. I came home and said I wanted for England. I had no idea what that meant or what it was or even if it was possible, whether it was a way of life. And I think now the players having the opportunity, the girls seeing that there’s a different way, and even not to the elite level, but just the whole club part, the social part, the fun element. I think there’s so much more talk about netball now. It used to be so isolated; it’s been so nice to bring lots of people into it from all different parts of life really, and I think that’s probably excited me the most that there’s so much interest in it now, and in women’s sport, that people talk about it a lot more.
TP: You said in an article that I read yesterday actually that after seven incredible seasons at Surrey… I’ll start this again. After seven incredible seasons at Surrey Storm, I feel now is the right time for me to take on a new challenge. I’m interested about what makes a right time. How do you know to stop something and go onto something else?
TG: I probably got quite stale with certain things. I’d done things for such a long time, I could go to Surrey Storm with my eyes closed, you know. I’d played there, I’d coached there, I knew the ins and outs of everything and I didn’t think I could take it any further. You know, we made five grand finals in seven seasons, we’d won back to back titles and I couldn’t push it any more. Like there was nothing more to give I guess and that’s I think for me, and I know that as a person that I’m very, once I get to that stage I know that I need to go and do something else and find something else to do, which it has its pros and cons I guess. But yeah, I felt I couldn’t give any more to it than I’d already given and it was fresh for someone else to take on.
TP: Well I’m particularly interested in your current challenge. You’re director of Wasps. What does that involve?
TG: Everything. When I first joined it was mad because Wasps took it on, who have been absolutely fantastic, but they knew very limited about netball. So I mean I was getting asked questions at the start about how sprung the court needed to be and the dimensions and stuff. That’s what Google’s for, guys. But yeah, it’s kind of moulded into coach, overseeing all the community programmes, overseeing all the junior academies, and then being a sounding board for everything else. We’re great ‘cause we have a PR team, we have a ticketing team, we have all the guys there that are very involved and love it, but yeah more sort of advice of what netball looks like and how it should move forward.
TP: Talk about the court, you have literally built this from the ground up. Daunting or just absolutely invigorating?
TG: I guess looking back at it, it was probably quite daunting. I remember taking it on thinking this is brilliant, it’s my dream job. I walked into a boardroom full of lots of important people and they sold me the dream and I did not play it cool. I put my head on the table and went, “This is my dream job, okay, I’m here.” Walked into it and then thought, oh God, we don’t have anything. We didn’t have anything. We didn’t have a team, we didn’t have the back room staff, we didn’t have anything. So kind of the enormity hit home about a month after taking on the gig. But it kind of all just fell into place. It was one big roller coaster really. Like I don’t think I’d have changed it. I’ve almost found this season harder because last season you were just thrown into it, dropped in at the deep end and it was like right, sink or swim. This season has probably been more difficult because I’ve actually now got to plan things and last year it was just get on there, get a team together, try and win, which we ended up doing which doesn’t happen very often.
TP: But now I imagine you feel like you need to win again and again and each time get that little bit…
TG: I was having this conversation about coaching the other day actually, because I don’t… the pressure never stops, it never changes. So we won and the grand final was amazing for about three hours afterwards, and we had a great night out. And the next morning I’m going, okay, what does the team look like next year. Who’s gonna sign other players? What are the other teams gonna look like? How are we gonna win it again? And I kind of get annoyed at myself for having that part of me because it would be really nice sometimes just to sit back and go, wow, look what we did, and instead it was, right, how are we gonna build, what next.
TP: You’re in charge of player recruitment. When you’re trying to build a team, what ingredients do you look for?
TG: It has to be the right mix, so that’s not only the performance side. The performance side to me is the easy bit. I’ve got a style of play, how I want to play netball, so I have an idea of the shooter, the goal attack, what they kind of mix, and that’s easy for me to spot. The culture side is probably the most important part of anything. A winning team has the best team environment and different mixes of personalities and people can really disrupt that quite quickly. So I’m all about what they’re gonna bring to the team as a person. And actually if you know my team we’re all kind of odd bods in a weird way, but they’ve all got the same sort of general outlook, morals, that kind of thing and that makes a huge difference especially when you’re under pressure.
TP: To be the best team though, you have to get the best out of all your people. Any tips?
TG: Honesty, and that’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve had from being a player and being coached by lots of different people. They’re the most difficult conversations to have and it’s probably the hardest thing that I found becoming a coach, that those chats are awful to have sometimes, but you’re talking to grown ups who, you know, who want to achieve and want to do something and actually there’s no point fobbing them off. So how honest you can be with people at the start from everything from how much they’re gonna play to what they’re bringing or even if it’s just difficult conversations about what’s going on in life, it’s really important that you can have those chats with people. They don’t always like what you say and they sometimes don’t always hear what you’re saying, but at least you give it a go.
TP: Do you think having been an athlete and then a coach gives you that edge?
TG: I think it’s given me a style of how I want to have my team. It wouldn’t work for everybody and that’s what I say about the culture’s really important, ‘cause actually that way is not the best way for everyone. I’ve had lots of coaches that their way to fire you up is to shout at you, to basically tell you you’re rubbish when you want to be better. I’ve also had coaches that have told you brilliant. Each way is different for people, but I think it’s at least given me an angle that I’ve gone, right, this is how I want to coach the players, and everyone can buy into that.
TP: You now, in your role now as a Director of Wasps, do you look back on that younger self, that athlete or that coach, and think what I was thinking then, you know, I had no clue. Or have you just…?
TG: Yeah, I was a terrible coach when I first started I think.
TG: Oh God, I think back to that first year…
TP: What constitutes a terrible coach?
TG: Well, two parts of it. So the first part would be the performance side. We made the grand final that first year and I had a good team and we were probably favourites to win, and at half time we were level and we weren’t playing well, and I came in and just tore strips off everybody. I just shouted, ‘cause I was on court, I was angry and angst, and I wanted to do. I remember the team talk; there was not one bit of constructive tactical technical bit. It was basically played better and we went out and we went goal for goal for the whole goal and we lost in the last 30 seconds, and I was devastated. And I look back at it now and go, that was just awful. I didn’t know how to control my emotions. And player management side as well, there wasn’t that honesty there so there were players in there that perhaps, you know, that thought maybe they were gonna be playing and I hadn’t had that conversation ‘cause I just presumed they knew weren’t at that time. So it was a massive learning curve.
TP: You say you didn’t know how to control your emotions. How did you learn that? Was it just a case of realising what had happened and then just sort of saying, okay, I’ve just got to sort myself out?
TG: That took time and that was growing up. Having my daughter helped a lot. I remember the first final I lost having Jamie and she was handed to me straight after the game and it changed everything. It was, you know, I haven’t got three days to mope around and be upset about this ‘cause this little thing wants to play with the confetti on the court that was shot over the other team, you know, it’s that simple. I grew up and you learn to control your emotions. I don’t think you can change your younger self; I think you just grow into what you want to be. You can look back at it now and some of the things I did were stupid, and actually as a player on court I’m a bit Marmite because I’ve had those emotions, but I don’t think I would have been as good or been in as many successful teams or won as much stuff if I hadn’t been like that. So I don’t regret any of that stuff but I think now I can look at it a lot more open and not be as fussed as I was back then.
TP: We’ll talk about the challenges. What’s something you’re most proud of?
TG: I think the year I won the super league just as a coach, not as a player coach, that’s probably the proudest moment.
TP: And why was that bigger than being a player coach?
TG: Because on court I can influence, because I can still do, I can still be out there, I can still make a difference court. I think to actually not be there and still give over the same passion and the instruction and still actually have done it without having to have played. Not that I was, you know, I’m not saying I was the best player on the court ever and definitely wasn’t in this final by a country mile, but you can change a lot more on the court than off the court. You have to say the right things and be the right person so I was proudest of that.
TP: Much of women’s sport is going through a massive transformation at the moment. Part of the challenges about trying to understand how to communicate the value to the external world and sports and teams are trying to engage larger audiences and find sponsors and build partnerships. Are those challenges familiar to you too?
TG: Yeah, definitely. I think all the sports are going through the same transition and it’s great we’re getting more and more coverage and people are talking about it more, but I’ve kind of found that’s been going on for a quite a few years now and we’ve come to a halt again about how we actually start to engage and big things for me have been looking at how it’s very different to how probably men watch male sports. And, yeah, the big thing with netball is how we’re getting more people to come to the games and watch and some of us being a mother as well how we’re getting women to not feel guilty about doing that or give time and have time with their families to come along to games and actually do something that they enjoy as well. Yeah, I think there’s lots of different angles on it at the moment and I’m trying to explore different ways, because I think in netball we’ve got to a point where we’ve got a great audience but we now need to move it forward again, and I think we’re all sort of at that same point, well how do we do that.
TP: Move it forward as increase it that little bit more?
TG: Yeah, definitely. I think the participation’s always there. I don’t think that’s the issue. Women are playing sport, you know. Kids are getting access at school. Yes, we’d like to do more and we’d like to have more clubs and more stuff going on, I know all that. But the biggest thing for me is this transition from the participation to the elite; how are we getting women to watch sport. What are they interested in? What do they like doing? And, yeah, how do I get regular… If I didn’t have any access to netball as a kid in terms of watching it, I knew my club and that’s all I ever saw. If you’d had seen the elite game, how incredible that would have been. So it’s now trying to make that transition and go hang on, there’s some great sports happening all the time, there’s some great role models, come along and see it, you know, come along and do something different for the day and see if you enjoy it.
TP: I remember watching my first elite netball match and that was probably about five years ago. I grew up in America and netball wasn’t there at all, it was just not part of my experience at all, and I saw the first elite game on the TV, England v Jamaica I think it was, oh God, it was amazing. The athleticism, I was just absolutely captivated. How important has Sky’s involvement been do you think to the growth of netball?
TG: Huge. You can’t take that away. They’ve put it into the forefront, they’ve made people aware of it, they’ve jazzed up the game, they’ve shown it as an actual technical sport as well. I know when I do the analysis on Sky and we do the Sky Pads, the amount of feedback we get from that, people are like we’ve never had that input, we’ve never seen that part of it before and it was taken seriously. And I do quite a bit of work with Sky and actually, you know, Sky do so much for our sport and actually we’ve now got to stop necessarily going, oh the media don’t show enough. Yes of course we’d like more stuff, but Sky are doing a fantastic job. What I want to say now is actually let’s support that, let’s watch the games, let’s go online and see the clips and the highlights and see the analysis and actually give back to it and start supporting women supporting women, because I do genuinely think that the media have been a game changer for us and actually now we need to start repaying the favour if we want it to keep growing and growing and growing.
TP: Do you have a sense of how to tackle this challenge?
TG: I wish. No, I think culturally we are always gonna struggle ‘cause we’re different. I spent a lot of time in Australia and actually some of the stuff that doesn’t necessarily transfer just because culturally we’re very, very different, and I don’t always think that’s the answer. I think there are different ways of doing it. I’m still not sure we’re getting the message out to everybody and I’d like to see that. So for example, we’ll have schools come and watch. So a school will bring fifty kids to come and watch a game of netball and they absolutely love it, and they go home. What I want to see then is parent go, oh you really enjoyed that, cool, I’ll take you again another week. And I know what it’s like, I’m busy as a parent and there’s other things going on, so it’s how we try to change that and make sure they’re getting the message and actually starting to do something, whether it’s hockey, football, rugby, cricket, netball, whatever it is the sport they’re involved in, that you can have more impact. And, you know, that’s something that I hope I’ll be able to transfer to my daughter as well. But sport’s always been my passion so it’s now trying to find that way to engage other people that perhaps haven’t got into it or haven’t necessarily thought that that’s the mum-daughter thing that they’re gonna do. So I think there’s different messages to get out there and that’s something I’m trying to look into.
TP: You’re part of the Wasps family. Is that important to be part of or has that been significant being part of a bigger grouping? How does that…?
TG: Definitely. The brand has helped hugely, just by having a name and a sort of professional element to it, and that’s behind the scenes and then when you’re talking fan base. And I think it’s the future. I think it’s the way that sports are gonna go cross across into many different areas and angles, whatever that works, whether it’s a football team, a rugby team, a cricket team. I think that works for us as well because when you get an affiliation to a club over here, whether it be football or rugby or cricket, it does cross over, and the amount of interest we’ve had from men that bring their sons to the rugby game or come with their family that’s gone, oh my wife plays netball or my daughter’s just started at school, oh maybe we’ll come to a game as well. We’ve had so much of that. And the brand helps because it does, you know, having people like JLR on board, we wouldn’t have necessarily got our foot in the door if it hadn’t been for Wasps.
TP: What’s the biggest thing you’d like to see change over the next, I don’t know, five years around netball?
TG: I’d love the league to become semi-pro, you know, that’s a massive thing. It’s moving in that direction. We’ve got England players that are full time but that gap now between the England players and that layer underneath is still big, so I’d love there to be 150 to 200 women in this country that are semi-pro athletes for netball. How amazing would that be that they can still build a career but they can actually train properly and play properly?
TP: And what needs to happen to enable that?
TG: Like anything, increase in numbers and attendances at games, bigger sponsorship and more coverage, but they all, it’s like chicken egg, you know, what happens first. So we get the spectators in, the coverage will then come.
TP: You’ve been an elite athlete, which is very much focusing on the self, and then a coach focusing on the athletes and now director of Wasps Netball focusing on the team and the bigger sports. What’s next? NGB? Does Jo Adams need to watch her back?
TG: No, not yet. The business is not my forte. You know what? I constantly think like that. You know, I won’t coach for ever. The sport is more important to me than being involved in one thing. I love what I do at the moment and I’ll always be involved in netball. I want to help the sport. It’s always what I’ve been passionate about from day one and I’m not prepared to give up on it. So whatever that angle takes, you know, whatever pathway I go down next it’ll be to help, encourage the sport and to do what we’ve talked about, because I genuinely think it’s still a blank page and for most women’s sports I think they’re just at that edge where we could take it forward and it’s just about finding the right spark.
TP: It’s an exciting time.
TP: This pod cast is about performance, it’s about different people’s views on what success is. I mean you’ve touched on that throughout the whole conversation, but I just want to ask you more directly. What’s success for you personally?
TG: I think there’s always a goal, so the goal each year for success is to win or to achieve this target or that target. But I think, and especially this year, I took a bigger step back from that for success. You can’t win every single year. You can’t keep winning. It’s not what it works. So what is it? And I think the answer for me was the journey. Yes, we had a goal, we wanted to get there, but from this year I learnt that there were many different ways to go and wind, and actually some of those ways were really good fun. Some of them were awful, not gonna like, some of them were awful. But I think success for me now is much bigger than that ultimate end goal. It’s about the journey and what you’re on and that’s kind of how I feel. So everything, there isn’t ever an end goal because if you didn’t win this year there’s always something to do next year and there were always some other bits that I collected on the way that made it a bigger purpose, and that’s kind of how I feel about it. Not always after the grand final when I’ve lost, but I’m trying to see success now as a much bigger picture.
TP: I’m just gonna end up with some quick fire questions. What did you eat for breakfast?
TG: An apple. How boring is that?
TP: Sounds [unclear 00:20:44]. Favourite piece of kit.
TG: Favourite piece of kit, like playing kit?
TP: Any kit you want, however you want to define that.
TG: Favourite piece of kit is my first England dress.
TP: Sporting hero.
TG: Ooh, Roger Federer.
TG: Because I think the way he’s evolved as a player I think is absolutely incredible, and look at him still going now.
TP: Most useless piece of advice you’ve been given or given to somebody else.
TG: That I need to be taller.
TP: Need to be taller.
TG: To play goal attack. Can you believe that I was given feedback on that? You need to be taller.
TP: Okay. Greatest passion outside of sport.
TG: Oh God. Oh, that’s really sad. Do I have one? Greatest passion outside of sport. You know what? It’s just family time, like hanging out with my daughter, like whatever she’s into, being passionate about that, which is princesses at the moment and unicorns.
TP: How lovely. Look at you. Best performance enhancer.
TG: Best performance enhancer. You know what? Sleep. Getting enough time to actually be able to train and do everything properly.
TP: Well it’s been brilliant talking to you, Tamsin, thank you very much.
TG: Thank you.
TP: Thanks for listening. You can follow the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and also don’t forget to subscribe online to aquestionofperformance.com[End]
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