Gail Parata – Interview

Gail Parata is the New Zealand born Head Coach to the Scottish Netball Team. Since 2013, Gail has taken them to a top 10 World Ranking, a Commonwealth Games, a World Cup and a Tour of South Africa…all this from a girl who was unable to get onto her High School A Team!

The retired Silver Ferns player has worked with the Worlds best, from Waimarama Taumaunu to Margaret Matenga and credits her success to working hard, dreaming big and never giving up.

Below, Gail shares her story of playing netball for her Aunty Patsy’s Club Team, moving to the Capital City of NZ to realise her dream of becoming a Silver Fern and her experience of moving her family across the other side of the World to Scotland.

I was 9 years old when I played for my primary school team. I was surrounded by talented netballers at that age and we had an excellent coach (school teacher) ? Miss Kissick who encouraged and believed in us. I loved playing netball and so I worked hard and I was selected in the Taranaki regional age groups team from secondary school to Under 20s.  However, not good enough to make my High School A team I went to play for my Aunty Patsy’s club team. I was 15 and surrounded by some very experienced and skillful netball players who taught me how to be a better netballer. As I got older and saw netball being played on the international stage I wanted to play for New Zealand.

At the age of 20 I moved to Wellington (Capital city of NZ). I wanted more out of life and more for my netball.  I joined the P.I.C netball club and was introduced to netball legends Waimarama Taumaunu and Margaret Matenga. I wanted to be coached by and play with the best. Because of the coaching and the reputation of the P.I.C netball club they attracted talented and skillful players from around New Zealand.  The majority of them went on to play for the Silver ferns. Whilst my team mates were being selected for various NZ squads I was not. Nevertheless I still believed I was good enough and would one day play for my country.

Eight years after arriving in Wellington I was selected to play for the Silverferns. I was selected into the NZ team with five of my club team mates whom all ,except one, have gone on to be performance coach’s – Tanya Dearns (Central Pulse HC), Debbie Fuller (Northern Mystics HC); Noeline Taurua (Southern Steel HC) Julie Seymour (NZ Secondary Schools HC) and Bernice Mene (Netball TV Commentator).

It came as a shock to be selected at that time because I was contemplating retirement.? It was 1996 and so far a great year where my club team had won the national club title and the Wellington regional team had won the national provincial trophy. The latter had been eluding me for years so after winning that I thought I could finish off on a high. Then came the announcement of my selection. Again a shock because for years I was told I was too short (5 foot 6) and one of the reasons for missing selection and then when I was 26 years old they started to say too short and too old. It was also unheard of too not make any of the New Zealand age group squads on the way up to the Silverferns. For any young aspiring athlete who wants to play for their country I encourage you to never give up on your dream. I was not selected for my High School A team or any New Zealand squads and yet I made it to the SIlverferns. Even though it was only one cap I received as a Silverfern no one can take that away from me. I worked damn hard for that cap. I wished it had been more but immediately after that test match where we lost to Australia there was a coaching staff change. The new coach came in with new ideas and new personnel. Again to young aspiring athletes one coach may not prefer you but another might and that’s why it’s very important to persevere!What skills or attributes have you taken with you into your coaching that you developed as a player?

Belief in my abilities; Goal Setting; Perseverance; Hard work pays off; Self-Motivation; Discipline; Teamwork; Organisational and Leadership skills; Relationship Building; Humility; How to win; How to handle disappointment; Coping with stress; Coping under pressure; Reflecting on how to be better; Problem solving. the list can go on as there were so many skills and attributes that I learnt while playing sport that I not only transferred into my coaching but also my life and work experiences!

My passion to coach comes from the love of the sport and my belief that I can help girls and women grow and develop into skillful and talented netballers as well as become great female role models. I use to read articles about people who love what they do as a day job and they say if you find something you love doing you will never work a day in your life. I feel the same about coaching. Doing something I love drives me to be the best and makes me work even harder!

I have experienced barriers to my coaching career that have questioned my belief in the developmental process but never my ability to succeed as a coach. A head coach role would open and having gone through the process of coaching age groups etc, operating as an assistant coach, I believed I was ready to step up only to be over looked. Like any sport politics is rife and netball is no different.? Sometimes in the developmental process you may have to play political games in order to go places and I wasn’t prepared to do that which has cost me positions.

When you know you have done the work, believe in your ability and also continue to strive to be better there is no reason to question your ability to succeed because many others will do that for you!? Perseverance and Belief in yourself are the keys to Success!

Netball coaches from New Zealand are in demand because of the long history of netball and years of experiences gained being a country that has achieved consistently at the highest level on the international stage. Having opportunities to coach in high performance environments such as the ANZ championships, the local national provincial league and many club leagues developed over the years has also helped NZ coaches learn what standards are required in a high performance netball environment.

It’s also to do with the style of play that New Zealand produce and the fact that some countries are wanting alternative styles to combat their opposition. New Zealand netball is known for its off marking defence called zoning which is about creating opportunities to get ball as opposed to other countries that play a very tight marking defensive style that forces errors and or intercepts and tips. Both styles work extremely well when there is a full commitment from your team to implement.  However unlike the man to man marking if one person is not working the man on man defence your defence can still hold where as if one player is not working the off marking defence it can be very ineffective and therefore difficult to create opportunities to get ball.