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Sam Bird of London Pulse.

Sam Bird, Coach of London Pulse during the Vitality Super League match between London Pulse and Surrey Storm at Studio 001, Wakefield, England on 13th January 2021.

Relative newcomers to the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL), London Pulse started life in the competition in 2019 and are tipped as ones to watch in their third campaign.

Based at the iconic Copper Box Arena, the side takes great pride in representing the capital and building participation in the game across the city.

Sam Bird, Pulse’s CEO and Director of Netball, has taken inspiration from several coaches she previously trained under to establish her own philosophies and the capital side’s culture.

“As a young England player, I had some very good coaches. Pat Watson was my New Cambell coach and at England U21s,” she said.

“She was very influential and helped me believe in myself and my ability to transfer from being a player to a coach. I admired her philosophy of coaching greatly, and I’ve tried to adopt some of her characteristics within my own work.

“The other person to inspire me was Pat Meadows, who was my county coach – she’s so committed to the game. Their enjoyment and passion have rubbed off on me. When I had to retire early as a player, becoming a coach was a really important way for me to stay involved in the game and give something back.

“The focus was to always get the most out of every session. Enjoy your teammates, enjoy the ride, enjoy being around other people, enjoy competing. They were both very competitive yet very fair coaches, and I’d say that pervasive attitude has seeped into me over the years.”

Bird’s relationship with netball has spanned decades, and you can see how every step has helped cement how she wants her side to play, from recruitment through to creating a credible pathway for younger athletes.

“For me, it’s more about the type of person you want to recruit. Are they going to fit into your club philosophy of being kind? Are they going to be decent, hardworking? What are they going to be like when the pressure is on? Are they going to help pull the team together or are they going to be divisive?

“The longer I have coached, the chemistry of the team and the roster has become really important almost to the point where the skill level is a given for me. You reach a certain level to be in a London Pulse team, but then it’s a matter of what else are you bringing?

“You see the personalities that are involved and the really strong female role models.” – Sam Bird

“What are you showing the pathway? What kind of role model are you? How are you representing London, and often your country, given our roster is so strong? Those things are really important in terms of building a philosophy, and what it means to be a sportswoman and a role model in London.”

Given the side was still relatively new to the league last year, the team goes into this campaign relatively unchanged but crucially with another year of bonding as a squad with the unexpected backdrop of Covid-19.

“The squad for 2020 was pretty much brand new, because Pulse started the year before as a senior team and came into the VNSL late.

“Last year we were able to recruit a mix of young and very experienced players. The benefit for us is that those young athletes have a year’s more experience, and although they haven’t had the on-court time in terms of competition yet in the VNSL, we have had consistent training the whole way through lockdown.

“When the league was cancelled in March, we moved to online. We’ve had maybe three weeks off as a break, but apart from that, we’ve been together. We got back on court with those relationships, those understandings already there, and that’s made a huge difference to us in terms of continuity which I think will really help us.”

The new campaign and its increased visibility thanks to Sky Sports showing every match gives Bird cause for optimism, with the opportunity to really introduce the sport to new followers.

“For the game and the sport, once you’ve seen netball and those down to the wire games, you see the personalities that are involved and the really strong female role models.

“I think it’s an easy game to get hooked on. It’s an hour of your time, so I’d say give it a go. You might find it’s something you really get into and enjoy.”

Make sure that you get the news as it happens by following us on Twitter and Instagram. Find out more about the #RiseAsOne campaign here and read from the leaders of the league here.

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