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Surrey Storm Netball Manager Mikki Austin reflects on the challenges of 2020 |  Netball News

Mikki Austin juggles roles as director of netball, head coach and athlete at Surrey Storm

As director of netball, head coach and Surrey Storm athlete, Mikki Austin knows how to spin multiple plates and handle the majority of situations. However, 2020 presented challenges and circumstances that even Austin had never seen before.

Here, the 27-year-old talks about the past 12 months and shares what it has been like to lead a Vitality Netball Superleague franchise during such unnerving times.

“When you think back to January 2020, it feels like a very long time ago, doesn’t it? Back then, we were in the middle of a normal preseason and all systems were going up to ‘at the Vitality Netball 2020. Superleague season, “she said Sky Sports.

“As a team we felt good. We felt as ready as possible, and we just needed to start running against outside opposition.”

Earlier in their preseason, the British Fast5 Netball All-Stars Championship saw Austin’s Storm grab the attention of other franchises with their shrewd work.

The fact that Austin really focused on retention and then introduced new key players made for a productive and happy camp. Needless to say, no one could have predicted what was on the horizon.

Surrey Storm Netball Manager Mikki Austin reflects on the challenges of 2020 |  Netball News

The opening of the Vitality Netball Superleague season in Birmingham was a tremendous opportunity in February 2020

At the dawn of February, the Superleague took advantage of an exceptional season opener at Arena Birmingham. The event drew record crowds for a one-day netball event in England and signaled the continued rise of the sport.

Right before the final game, Whitney Houston was played and the whole arena was up, almost seven hours after the start of the first game. The energy was incredible.

“The opening of the season is always a highlight of the year, for many reasons. It’s the opening round, it’s such a good event that’s so well organized and it’s always so great. to see all the teams under one roof, ”Austin said.

“I have to say it’s still chaotic but it’s a great day and we found ourselves in the middle of one of the most competitive games of the day.

“The event really made a statement about how the league wanted to use the momentum from the Netball World Cup to focus on the domestic game. It felt like a real scorer for the sport. It was a moment. hinge.”

After the season opener, the momentum continued with top class matches and fan-devoured coverage.

Storm’s second round encounter with London Pulse, which was live Sky Sports, Fans across the country were thrilled and the 51-50 contest provided another signal that the 2020 season was going to fly.

“We play sports to be in times like this, when everything is on the line and the pressure is on,” Austin said. “The game was so topsy-turvy. If you were neutral you would have loved it!”

At this point, Storm and the rest of the franchises were performing well with their matches. Austin and his team were able to make it to Sirens for the third round before COVID-19 lifted its head, and the complexion of the league (and the country) has changed dramatically.

On Sunday March 14, Storm was scheduled to host Manchester Thunder at Surrey Sports Park. For all parties involved, it was a time of uncertainty.

Two days before the match, the Prime Minister announced that sporting events could still proceed normally. As a result, Severn Stars and Wasps Netball faced off in Worcester and Storm focused on welcoming the defending champions.

“At that point, COVID-19 was becoming a very real situation. I remember having a lot of conversations and asking so many questions, including ‘Are we sure we’re going to run this game?’

Surrey Storm Netball Manager Mikki Austin reflects on the challenges of 2020 |  Netball News

Surrey Storm’s match against Manchester Thunder was the last game played before the 2020 season was postponed and then canceled

“We were so aware that this was a home game, with fans coming and that Thunder was traveling four hours to join us. We have a duty of care to everyone.

“On Thursday I told the team that we had to prepare for the game, but I told them that, in all honesty, I had no idea if this was going to play out or not.

“We didn’t know how quickly it was all going to get worse – the lockdown across the country came two days later – and I believe it was either that night or the next day when the league said no another match would not take place.

“I have to admit, I remember feeling pretty downhearted and a little frustrated that we had been through everything only that a decision was made very soon after and not before.”

In her role as manager of netball, Austin also remembers feeling a huge responsibility towards his players. During those early days, and throughout the year since, she wanted them to know everything she was doing, so they had a chance to share their concerns with her.

When it comes to netball, Austin immediately got down to trying to put together a plan and better understand each player’s personal situation.

Did they have a space they could use to practice but, more importantly, what was their life situation like? Were they alone? Did they have family around them? Were they in a high risk household?

Your netball family, you spend more time with them in a normal week than you spend with anyone else. In season you are all for each other, so going from that to nothing was really weird and very unfamiliar.

Mikki austin

“Very early on, we set up a program including individual and team remedies. We chose not to train as a team online and instead trusted individuals to do it at their own pace.

“I also became a quiz master on a Friday and ran a quiz for everyone involved in our franchise and their families. I think I did it for 11 weeks and now have bad lists of reading because of the musical rounds! “

All of these have kept Storm connected and as many athletic directors and head coaches will tell, managing a team and your own emotions takes a lot of energy.

“I’m going to be really honest; it was really tough sometimes. I’m the one who’s supposed to have all the answers… I’m the one who sets the game plan, dictates the pace, the effort and the energy. of those things come from me, so not being able to give players the answers they needed was difficult.

“It was a lot more than just, are we playing a game or not? It was about people’s lives, for example importing players wondering whether they should stay in the country or try to return home?

“It was really hard not to have the answers to some of these questions. Everyone was faced with such a level of the unknown, human nature says you want to know what’s going on around there or have an idea anyway. Not being able to put people ‘peace of mind was so difficult. “

As a person, Austin thrives on routine and structure. In addition to supporting others, she had to deal with her own lifestyle that was tossed around. The fact that netball was not there made her question her own identity.

“There were all kinds of questions that came to my mind, questions that I don’t think I’ve ever faced before… and it took me a few weeks to sit down and figure it out,” she says openly. .

Like many others, Austin relied on physical activity to manage everything. Also, she got nicer to herself and didn’t focus too much on all the different social media posts from people claiming to be enjoying the most productive time ever.

“One of the things that happens to me now is allowing you to think and feel exactly what you are doing at any given time, and to be okay with that.”

The firing process was another awkward moment for Austin, however, she understood the business reasons for it and trusted those who represented Storm in all conversations around the return of netball.

“I’m a bit of a control freak,” she said with a smile. “I’m used to taking it all on my own shoulders because I wear so many different hats, so sitting down and not having influence or control was very difficult.”

Austin’s highly anticipated return from leave came on her 27th birthday and she moved to a flexible leave base when the Superleague signing window opened.

From there, everything was in place to form a squad for the 2021 season, thinking about restarting the league, training, venues and hosting potential pre-season games … ‘Call, Austin thought about it.

“The best way to describe it is to use the duck analogy, you look beautifully serene on top but below you have legs paddling frantically to keep you afloat!”

Speaking of all the challenges of taking a break from netball, Austin wants to make it very clear that she has enormous compassion for the challenges many have faced as a result of COVID-19.

“It was the most difficult year of my career. I wouldn’t want to do it again in a hurry. However, everything has to be put into context,” she said in a neutral tone.

“Although we felt pretty hard [in not having a season], in the grand scheme of the larger world, we have no idea of ​​the desperation and grief that has occurred in so many different households, families, communities and countries.

“He tries to balance how disappointed you feel about the sport we love and which is so much of our life on hiatus, with the perspective of the bigger picture.

“There have been so many tragedies this year with families who have lost loved ones and loved ones and it continues every day. So, as difficult as it is, because we weren’t able to play our sport, there are has so much. people across the board who have so much worse. “

Netball comes down to Sky Sports with the Vitality Netball Legends four test series between England and Jamaica. The first test will be live Sky Sports onend aired on the Sky Sports YouTube channel on January 22.

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