Anna Mayes is the successful Head Coach of the England Netball Team and as part of our series on Unsung Hero’s I wanted to understand why she was so successful and what is it that she does behind the scenes that makes the team so good and in the ascendancy that they are enjoying?
As with so many unsung heroes, Anna is very humble and after my initial introduction and commentary on her, her first words were “thank you, it’s humbling to hear positive feedback like that.”
With a background in Sport Science and Coaching [Sport and Exercise Science (BSc Hons.), Sport Psychology (MSc), Sports Massage Therapy (Dip.) and Sports Coaching], Anna has an incredible understanding of herself, her vision and the ethos for the team. “I’m a strong believer in experimental learning,” she says of her own experiences and those of the team. This for me is the theme of the conversation and I believe part of what makes her so successful. Her ability to learn from every situation and to see that in a positive way - means that she and the team never see themselves as ‘victims’ but instead that it is about continual learning. “Performance doesn’t travel in a straight line,” Anna says, talking about her view of sport, life and the highs and lows it brings. She wants to learn from every aspect of life and she is imparting this to the team.
If you are learning, then responsibility needs to be taken and this requires maturity and awareness and this is the cornerstone of how Anna Mayes functions. She is very clear that she and the team are all responsible for their actions, saying that performance standards and behavioural excellence, day in and day out, are paramount and a standard requirement - not an optional extra.
She is very clear on personal and team awareness and this theme weaves through our conversation. Anna comments on this by saying, “The more self-aware we can become the more we can shape the actions we take”, whilst also continuing to say that “you need to look at yourself before you look at others”.
This is about putting the focus on the person, to understand themselves and continue to improve. What this brings out is a more confident player, a team that understands each other better and a coach who can communicate effectively, not just in the relaxed moments but when the chips are down and the pressure is on.
Only once you take responsibility for yourself and are self-aware can you ask and answer a few questions that Anna believes are key to defining you and your actions:
Whose opinion matters to you?
What’s your support network?
What’s your story?
What do you want to represent?
On the surface one can answer them quickly and flippantly - but to reflect and think over these questions is exactly what Anna wants of her team and of herself. She thrives on this curiosity and it has been the making of this team. Anna has created an environment where selfawareness,learning and responsibility are safe things to be doing, where you improve as a person and as a team and the interesting thing is that of the three
themes that make up our conversation not one of them works independently of the other, it’s a hand in glove system that creates something complete and is exciting for the individual and the team.
This is what is so interesting about Anna Mayes and her style. Her final words to me: “I feel like I am one piece of that journey and I am very fortunate to have the people I work with.” Spoken like a coach without an axe to grind, a leader comfortable in her own skin
and aware of all surrounding her, taking on no external pressures that don’t conform to her ‘story’. An Unsung Hero through and through.