With Mother’s Day this weekend, we took the opportunity to chat to international Netball coach, Academies of Sport Senior Coach and mum of seven Melissa Hyndman about her career, being a mum and how the two exist together.
Q1. In a nutshell, tell us about your sports career to date including a high and low.
I started playing netball at age 8 and played to the highest level, the New Zealand (NZ) Maori’s. I started coaching while still playing at my club, just to give something back and started my first representative coaching role with the U13 team.
I worked my way from U13 to U14, U15, U16, U18 and eventually U21s. The best coaching advice I was given was to do my apprenticeship and to work my way up through the age groups as I would gain knowledge which would help me later in my coaching career. They were 100% right and I spent two or three years with each age group. I then worked my way to the NZ Maori’s U17, U19 then the senior team. While coaching the NZ teams I was also coaching the National Provincial side, Netball North working with some of the best players in the world of Netball, Temepara Bailey, Leana de Bruin, Catherine Tuivaiti nee Latu, Grace Kara and Megan Dehn.
My first International coaching role was with Netball Fiji coaching the National Team and the U21 teams. This was the biggest high of my career and Fiji was the most amazing place on earth to live and the people were unbelievable. I loved this position, the people and the Netball. I took the National team to South Africa and Pacific Mini Games, coached the U21s from 13th to 9th place at the U21 World Youth Championships in Raratonga.
My next move was to Wales coaching the national team from 19th to 8th in the world. We won several competitions and gained Commonwealth Games qualification. I also coached the Celtic Dragons in the English Superleague competition to a Grand Final – first time ever for this Welsh team.
I am currently Director of Netball at Queen Ethelburga’s College where I run a Netball scholarship programme. The school has world-class facilities and the people I work alongside are world class and I love the opportunity to support, help and develop young netballers while ensuring they achieve academically.
The low of coaching must be dropping players. At all levels and ages, it’s one of the biggest challenges for all coaches.
Q2. What drives you to compete at an elite level?
Easy, gaining that ultimate peak performance – seeing your athlete’s smiles when they get it and are Winning.
Q3. Which mum in sport inspires you?
My Mother has always inspired me. She was also an International Netball Coach and an amazing athlete herself. I have never met anyone with her drive to win and be the best.
Q4. How many children do you have and how do you balance your career and family?
I have seven children enough for a Netball team! Four beautiful girls and three strong boys. I have always been blessed and very lucky as my family is very supportive of my career. My youngest was born in Fiji when I was coaching there and the Fijian National Team named her Talei, which means precious and one of kind in Fijian. My family or Whanau (in Maori) is the most important aspect of my life. My friends are also important and my best friend is my husband – he has been my rock through my International Netball Career, which can be hard sometimes.
Q5. How has being a mum had a positive impact on the way in which you coach or approach your job in sport?
The reason I coach and have always wanted to be a coach is to motivate, inspire and mentor young people. I want them to be the best they can be – don’t be scared to take on the world. I always tell them to try and if they fail, to get up and try again. That’s what life is all about. Love, honesty and respect is what I teach my own children and how to clean, mostly – I am a bit OCD when it comes to cleaning the house!
Q6. How involved are you with the sport that your children play? Have you steered them towards Netball?
They played a lot in NZ, but since leaving NZ no. I am not going to lie, playing Netball in NZ is much easier than the UK. Our facilities and clubs have a great set up and structure so its brilliant for young children. One of our sons has a rugby contract in the USA which is awesome. Ultimately, we have steered our children to dream big and don’t be scared to go and get it, happiness and health is our number one priority.
Q7. Why do you feel sport is important for children generally?
Sport is the most important thing for all children as it helps, not only with physical fitness and health, but it also teaches leadership, teamwork, respect, discipline, drive and focus. However, I feel the most important qualities a child should possess are commitment and self-confidence.
Q8. What is the one piece of advice you would give a child who aspires to compete at an elite level in the future?
If it was easy, everyone would be playing at the highest level – so suck it up and be prepared to commit yourself to something that will change your life forever. You will miss parties, outings, movies, dinners BUT the experiences you will gain (both the ups and downs) are amazing and life changing. It’s the most amazing feeling EVER.
Q9. Any advice for Mums wanting to get into (or back into) sport?
Start slowly, but get back into it, even if it’s just joining the gym or coaching, umpiring or even managing your child’s sports team. The friends you make are for fun, but your health and well-being is for life.
Academies of Sport.