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Anna Stembridge of Team Bath Netball.

Anna Stembridge, Coach of Team Bath during the Vitality Super League match between Team Bath and Loughborough Lightning at Studio 001, Wakefield, England on 14th January 2021.

Anna Stembridge jokes that her inquisitive and analytical nature, in always wanting to understand ‘why’ as a player, probably made her ‘a coach’s nightmare’.

In fact, those qualities combined with her love of helping others achieve their potential have led her to become one of the most highly regarded coaches in the game.

Whenever she’s talking about her coaching journey, there’s one name mentioned time and time again: Lyn Gunson.

With a revolutionary style, the former New Zealand, England and Team Bath Netball boss helped mould a generation of coaches, Stembridge included. She remembers vividly the distinct moment where she thought coaching could be a profession.

“We were delivering a players’ coaching session across the South West region and I remember Lyn just going to me ‘when are you going to stop playing and start coaching properly?’,” she said.

“That was literally as a 19, 20-year-old. What it did actually do was make me really reflect on what I loved and what I was passionate about.

“What I’m really passionate about is helping people develop to be the best they can be – whether that’s my teaching in terms of my academic background, my coaching or being with my friends and family.

“Being part of that journey I think is a real passion of mine and something I feel very privileged to be part of.”

Stembridge cites Gunson’s approach as an athlete ‘person-centred’ coach as influential in the development of her own style and philosophy.

From a delivery and information perspective, some players want to be questioned on what they’re thinking and what they’re doing, while others prefer to be given all the details quickly and succinctly.

Praised by Serena Guthrie as ‘a really great coach and people person’, Stembridge acknowledges that it’s an environment and a journey that is continually evolving.

“Make no assumptions about the athletes, even those you might have worked with for a long time, about what their preferences are and how you can get the best out of them,” she said.

“If you want to be the best you can be, you’ve got to reflect and learn from every experience you have.

“You’re on this journey and you’re continually learning about yourself and the people you work with.

“It is a two-way process; its continually evolving. it’s continually evolving and that’s the beauty of it but it keeps you on your toes!”

Stembridge forged a successful coaching partnership with current Vitality Roses Head Coach Jess Thirlby, leading Team Bath Netball to VNSL success in 2009 and 2010, before returning for her second stint at the club in 2015.

She talks about not only the players but the staff bleeding Blue and Gold. The culture within the squad, including understanding what it means to wear the famous dress and the behaviours expected when representing the badge, is pivotal.

“It is our foundation; it’s the most important thing and I can’t reinforce that enough,” she said.

“We are extremely proud to represent the blue and gold – it gives me goosebumps actually talking about it – but it’s true, we are extremely proud of our culture and how much time and effort we invest in it.

“Every year it’s one of the first things we do, if not the first thing we do, when everyone comes together.

“Everyone’s involved in this process because we’re living and breathing it. It’s what, at the end of the day, we will look back on and say ‘were we true to our values?’ Were we true to the behaviours we expected from ourselves and each other?’

“If we can say yes to that, we’ll be proud. We’ll be very proud of the way we’ve conducted ourselves.”

With every game televised on Sky Sports during the 2021 season, Team Bath Netball fans will be able to follow their side every step of the way.

Stembridge is excited by the opportunity the increased visibility offers to show so many strong, passionate and powerful women.

“It is brilliant, so important and it’s such a significant milestone for our sport. You cannot underestimate the impact that it has on our sport, on the development within grassroots and how significant it is for aspiring athletes.

“I love the fact that we’ve got these wonderful role models out there for everyone to see.”

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