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Mel Mansfield of Wasps.

during the Vitality Super League match between Loughborough Lightning and Wasps at Studio 001, Wakefield, England on 15th January 2021.

Having joined the league in 2017, Wasps hit the ground running winning the title in their inaugural season and swiftly followed it up with another league triumph in 2018.

Now in their fifth Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) campaign, the Coventry side had a positive start to 2021 with a 34-53 win over local rivals Severn Stars on Sunday 14 February before suffering a narrow 44-43 defeat to Midlands rivals Loughborough Lightning 24 hours later on the last day of Rounds 1/2.

Head Coach Mel Mansfield signed a contract extension with Wasps in late 2020, which sees her at the helm for a third season – her fifth involved with the team.

Reflecting on how she started on her coaching journey, she said: “Back in 1998 I was a Level 2 coach when I started working with Mary Beardwood, she had been a coach of mine for many years and somebody I had a huge amount of respect for.

“One day out of the blue she said to me ‘Can you come and cover a session for me at Surrey Storm?’ and immediately I said ‘No, don’t be so silly Mary!’ There were some huge names in that squad – I was absolutely terrified!

“I think I planned the session 50 times, with Tamsin Greenway, Geva Mentor and Sonia Mkoloma all playing. I mean, who would just turn up and do that as their first experience of elite coaching? Well, I did. Crazy!

“I was an Assistant Coach for a long time and loved it, it was a very different and a very important role. As you gain experience you take bits and pieces from different people with you. I worked with Maggie Jackson for a little bit when I was at Mavericks, Karen Atkinson, Sam Bird – you take snippets from everyone along the way.

“As Head Coach I’ve been fortunate to have great people around me, and I’m really proud to work with Bianca Modeste and Colette Thomson – they both add something to the dynamic.”

Wasps have a real mix of youth and experience in their squad going into this season, and Mansfield’s looking forward to seeing what they can do and how they shape up.

“We’ve got some fresh faces and a young group of training partners, who have pushed our group the whole way. We’ve added to our attacking line-up this year with Sophia [Candappa] back and in a new role as captain.

“Watch these players, they are incredible athletes.” – Mel Mansfield

“With the addition of Jamaican international, Gezelle Allison, I think you’ll see a lot more excitement in our attacking game this year. We have got incredible shooters, all of them are hugely accurate in any combination so I’m excited to see what they can do.”

Covid-19 and adhering to rigorous protocols has meant all clubs have had to adapt how they train and prepare on game day, and it’s become a time for the elite game like everyone else to rely on technology to connect the players and coaching staff.

“We do lots of extra bits off court to try and keep the team connected. It is quite difficult because socially we’ve not been able to do anything, so everything that we discuss, even our pre-match and pre-training videos are all on Zoom because we can’t huddle around a laptop.

“We try to think of things that accelerate those connections. We have a buddy group system as well at Wasps, and the aim of those leaders is to take care of their little group. Occasionally I ask them to check in on their buddies, but more often than not it naturally happens which just shows the culture here at Wasps.

“We are desperate for netball to be back and there’s a real opportunity now with Sky showing all games to make some great viewing figures so that next season we’ve got both; the online platform and we’ve also got bums on seats.

“It’s been an enormous effort by England Netball and all 11 clubs to get netball back. Watch these players, they are incredible athletes and I really hope we get some new viewers who are hugely impressed by how good they are.”

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