Netball’s In The Jet Stream: We want to ensure that we can live with the best – Francis

Stacey Francis
Stacey Francis
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Round Three in the Vitality Netball Superleague was always set to be a toughie and for many different reasons.

Firstly, the journey down to the Surrey Sports Park is the furthest that we have to travel as a team this season and five hours on a coach each way is always going to have an effect on how you ‘turn up’ to and recover from a game.

Secondly, although much of the talk has not been about them in the pre-season, it should not be forgotten by anyone that Surrey Storm are the reigning Superleague champions.

Finally, I am undecided about whether the following is a positive or negative, however, it has been 12 days since we last stepped on court to play.

All of these factors are definitely not meant to be excuses. However, they are important considerations to make when attempting to analyse our performances with the view to moving forward this year.

Following our round two defeat to Team Bath, there was a bit of a netball hangover in the camp the following week at training. When you are not reaching your potential there are bound to be some bruised egos. Despite our improved first-half performance on Saturday, Surrey Storm showed their class and produced a 23-goal margin to finish the game 59-36.

It hurt, a lot! However, we will get better. Improving is the only option to help minimise the pain of heavy defeats. A constant challenge for us as players and coaches is making sure that we turn up with a level of intensity and consistency that means we get the best out of each other every time that we are together.

Whether this be at training or in a game. I believe that it is apparent from our on-court performances that we are still finding our feet as a squad. Our capacity for growth and the talent that we have is not in question. Our consistency and ability to compete, whilst in a rebuilding period for the franchise and a learning phase as a squad, definitely is.

We are still in search of a consistent 15-minute quarter when on court that we can use as a platform to build immediate and future performances from. Whilst being mindful of our lack of familiarity due to copious personnel changes and the small amount of time we have spent together as a complete squad, I think that the solution to our lack of consistency will come through a renewed training approach.

As an athlete, I have always found that I am at my best or at the very least learning when I am challenged. Whether this be verbally or physically, my level of engagement and my ability to improve is always dependent upon whether I am challenged. I strongly believe that the same applies when approaching a relationship with a coach.

Despite never having been given the role of captaincy before, I feel like I have always been empowered to challenge both my team-mates and my coaches.

As a leadership team, my vice-captain Kylie Paynter and me have been attempting to leave no stone unturned in the past few weeks to try and expedite our growth as a squad. We are hoping that through challenging and questioning what we do, we will find new ways to work which ensure that both athletes and coaches have a clear and consistent approach.

We need to keep redefining and, more importantly, meeting our own expectations and finding ways to minimise inconsistencies.

The Jets environment is one that is receptive to change and improvements are happening, we just now need to see them on court. I know everyone is committed to explore new avenues and I have every confidence we will get there, it’s just taking longer than I – and everyone else – would like.

The programme that I was fortunate to have grown up in was one where questions were always asked of me. I was always being developed physically and mentally. Whether it be on the court or in the gym or through carefully constructed sessions, video analysis and a prescribed amount of self-autonomy, I was being built to be a reflective player.

The Yorkshire Jets camp is definitely one that I feel challenged in, however, we continue to strive to introduce ways that develop our natural talent and physical prowess into a team who can also execute the growing cognitive demands of the game.

Before the season started I said that this was set to be the most competitive Superleague season ever.

It is certainly turning out that way and I want to make sure that we can compete with the best.

Our first game of the season that will be played in Leeds takes place on Saturday at 4pm. We face table-toppers Hertfordshire Mavericks in front of a sell-out crowd. I firmly believe that you only fail if you stop trying – and there’s no question of us stopping trying.