Maddy McAuliffe has been a Super Netball Champion for the past two years, but she hasn’t always been the one being picked in representative teams. Growing up being coached by her Mum Maddy often found her self playing the unpopular positions, or even sitting on the bench. We chatted to Maddy about mentors, inspiring Netball coaches and why she loves coaching.
The early years
Tell us about when you started playing netball..
I started playing netball really young, around 7 or 8. I played for my school team, which my Mum coached. She is probably the main reason why I played. Mum played when she was growing up and played for Canberra when she was in her teenage years. Mum wanted to coach at the school and I wanted to play, so that is how it started.
How was it being coached by your mum?
Everyone thinks being coached by your mum would secure you more favourable treatment and you would play the good positions. If you have ever met my mum she is the sweetest human being, she was worried that it would come across that way. So, I played a lot of GK and WD, which has probably helped me now and I probably sat on the bench the most, she was so worried the other parents would get angry at her, but that aside I did really love netball and it is something that we still share as one of our major passions now. I am really glad we got to start off the netball journey together.
You have said previously, that your mum is a netball nerd, tell us about that..
My mum is the ultimate netball nerd. To the point where the state league team I played for coming through the ranks, the Brisbane South Wildcats. I was away one time when they played, she still went and watched the game, that is how committed she is. She is so involved in Netball, she comes to every single game, flies to as many away trips as she can, brought pre-season tournament tickets before I even had the chance to tell her we got free ones. She follows every online forum. She also has a twitter account and when she first signed up she only followed netball related things and Laura Geitz. She is the ultimate nerd. When the new league got announced (when it moved from ANZ to Super Netball) there was a lot of speculation of where people were going to go because there were three new teams… there was an online forum that was announcing the team, it was just people guessing, no one with inside knowledge, we were convinced that I wasn’t going to be picked up into a team because she had read that forum and all of the team spots had been filled. She is very involved in the netball community and I love her for it.
Coaches and Mentors
Besides your Mum, were there any inspiring netball coaches in your junior years?
I think every coach has some sort of influence on your netball career. I was really lucky, Laura Scherian’s mum was my school coach for a while. She has quite a big influence on my career, I had her from about grade 9-12. She was an ex Firebirds coach and coached at the AIS, so I was really lucky as a young player to have someone with that knowledge and experience.
Kylee Byrne who is the assistant coach of the Lightning had a massive influence on me at ANL and state level. Kylee just constantly expects more from me, which is great. When I first came into the ANL program, I was the youngest at the time, I thought I would be able to cruise a little bit and they wouldn’t expect too much from me. Kylee was the polar opposite to that, which was really good for me, because I do like to have something to strive for. It doesn’t matter how well I do or how well I think I do, she constantly wants more.
I’ve had some incredible coaches over the years, but I think those two particularly as influential.
Your current coach at the Lighting, Noeline Taurua, has had an inspiring netball coaching career, tell us about working with her
Noels is just a completely different coach to what I’ve had before. Her and Kylee balance each other out really well. Kylee and I really like to analyse things, sometimes overthink it. Whereas Noels would just be like “it’s not that bad, it will get there”… She really wants to build on those strengths you think you have as a player, she wants you to know that and how you think you can make it better.
I think what Noels and Kylee have both done for me is make sure I am a part of the process in developing what sort of a player I want to be and that has definitely been beneficial.
So they bring you along the journey?
Definitely. I think that is something in every facet of life. If someone tells you what to do, or how to do it. It is never going to be as effective as you figuring it out yourself. I think they are quite good at making sure you are a part of that decision making process and know why you are actually doing things.
Have you had any mentors in your netball journey
I would always say my mum has been my biggest inspiration and mentor, not just in netball, but life. I definitely wasn’t one of the kids that got picked up in teams when I was younger, I was quite short back when I first started. Which is why I played centre court and now I am probably quite tall for a centre court. I didn’t make many rep teams and it was my mum in those times, who would say “if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it, but if you’re still enjoying it why not keep playing? What can you do more of?.”
She never said that I deserved to be there more than anyone else or the players that were selected weren’t the right choice. It was always just you aren’t what they are looking for right now. I never had this negative perception towards people who had gotten in, but also knowing that it wasn’t just because I wasn’t good enough.
Mum has always mentored me through and so have other players in my teams. Since I have signed with the Lightning to have some really amazing players surrounding me and I have learnt bits and pieces from all of them, we just have so many different characters in the team that you do learn little things from everyone. Obviously, Laura Langman from an on-court perspective plays a similar position to me. Her work ethic, the way she plays, the way she thinks about the game. She has definitely mentored me in that role. Even players like Steph Wood, the way she approaches the game and the way she thinks about Netball in terms of it not being everything in the world, really putting that Netball/life balance into perspective is a really good thing. Laura Scherian is someone who I grew up playing with, she dots all her I’s and cross all her t’s. She just does everything right and I think you can take little pieces from a lot of people, rather than having that figure head who sort of mentored you in that official capacity.
Transition to professional Netball
What was our transition to professional sport like?
It is sort of a bit of whirlwind. I was on that cusp, like a lot of people where they go “it is now or never”. I had just finished my business component of my business and law degree. Had secured a part-time job at a corporate PR firm in Brisbane and I was settled on the fact that I would probably do law part time. I always thought I would play Netball, it was sort of getting to the point where, once Uni finishes it is a bit hard to negotiate work and netball. I was in this decision space of do I keep going or do I just play socially and it was when the Super Netball competition got announced. That is when I thought well this is probably my chance, there will be some more spots for Australian players, this is the time to really give it a shot. When I got the call that I was going to Lightning it was in August 2016 and I had moved to the coast by November. In that time I had to switch to external study, quit my job, find a place to live by the time that had all happened we finished the season in June 2017 and it was all finished. It was kind of a blur.
We didn’t have an office yet. We didn’t have staff, uniforms, a court or anything like that. It sort of felt like a summer camp, we all moved up there, no one had any other friends, no job, we sort of had uni and no ones partners had moved over. It was just this camp environment where everyone would hang out all the time. We would go to training, go have coffee, go have breakfast and we sort of lived and breathed netball. It was an amazing experience to be a part of, it was probably a really great way to step into professional sport because I was able to drop a lot of the other things and that move to Sunshine Coast almost set up a new environment for me.
Do you think have that time together contributed to the success of the team?
Yeah, definitely. The culture you have as a club and a team, and the relationships you have with the people in your team are incredibly important. I think it was a massive factor in our success in that first year. I don’t think it sustainable for a ten year career, but in terms of setting up a club and having that connection was hugely important. We had that one focus and it was survival for the first year. Everyone at the club, was just trying to get their job done and did it as best as they could in the time-frames we had. We definitely had a shift over the second year. Taking bits of that success, but obviously having a bit more time, little less stress and more of an idea of what we were doing. As time has gone on we have been able to set up our lives on the Sunshine Coast, and make it more of a holistic balance approach rather than just focusing on Netball.
In setting up a club you want to establish what that club will be known for. As a club it was always making sure we had a brand that we were proud of and that we could stick to. There is always that element of wanting to prove that you deserve to be there, but I think it was more about making sure we knew who we were and sharing that with everybody.
Have you ever had one-on-one coaching in your sporting journey?
I never had one on one coaching when I was younger, but when I was younger 2 or 3 of us would go and have some specialist coaching which was really good. For me, because I wasn’t being selected in to the rep teams. I wasn’t being exposed to that skill based training. My year 8 coach (who was my Maths teacher) was from America and had absolutely no idea about netball so it was really important for me to have that outside coaching experience with somebody who had a bit more knowledge and could actually provide me with more skills.
We do need those teachers and parents there to help out, but in terms of me and making sure I was improving as a Netballer, it was important for me to go out and get additional coaching from someone who had worked hard to be a coach and share that knowledge.
I did heaps of different sports when I was little. I was exposed to all different sorts of things and you pick up different things from each sport. If you just play Netball, you do miss out on some of the more explosive running, technique and change of direction.
Do you have a mantra or quote when it comes to training?
My Dad who has been watching netball since I was seven, and has no idea about Netball, said to me the other day ‘Run hard, don’t stop.” I think it something he got from the army, I don’t know. It is terrible netball advice. But that is the first thing that comes to my head.
It is not applicable at all, but run hard and don’t stop.
What do you find inspiring about Netball coaching?
I love watching the improvement, even over an hour session. You see the little skills they pick up and for me that is just so rewarding. I think at my level it is a bit more difficult to improve over one training session, instead it all accumulates up. But to see the athletes, start off with a skill like change of direction and they understand it and you see it click for them. That is really rewarding.
I love that excitement and it reminds me of why we play netball, just that pure joy.
I had a young girl the other day, who was so sweet and the whole time she would not stop skipping, jumping or running around and smiling. When it ended she just wanted to go for longer and it is really nice because sometimes training day in and day out you do sometimes forget why you are there. It is good to get back to that little girl inside of you, who absolutely loves it.
Train with Maddy McAuliffe
Feature Image via Maddy’s Instagram @maddymcauliffe