For the Zimqueens, an all Zimbabwean women’s netball team, simply playing netball together is enough. Bringing to life the sentiment that social sport is good for health, sense of community and self-esteem, the Zimqueens are a grassroots initiative and in 2014 entered a formal netball league for the first time.
With support from the Grosvenor Foundation and the Victorian Women’s Benevolent Trust, Netball Victoria were able to advertise for a formal coach. Despite the difficulty in getting a coach finalised, the Zimqueens continued to attend games and practice.
Cassanda Hadson, Community Development Manager at Netball Victoria, coached the ladies in the interim. After a potential coach falling though, and the advertised coaching opportunity about to expire, it looked like the Zimqueens were going to remain without a coach. Cassandra, hands tied and unable to help further, called on a personal contact. Colleen Topping is a long time player, member and coach at Diamond Valley Netball Club, and a family friend of Cassandra’s.
It only took a quick call to convince Colleen and her son Shane, who has represented Australia in netball, to agree to coach the Zimqueens. Unaware of the fortuitous circumstances, the mother-son coaching duo turned out to be exactly what the Zimqueens wanted.
At their first training Colleen was adamant to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes. ‘We asked the ladies what they wanted at the first training session,’ says Colleen. ‘They said ‘We want to win! Make us win!’
In the 5 weeks of training in the lead up to their final game in late November, the mother-son coaching duo have matched the Zimqueens enthusiasm and efforts. Despite their short time together as coach and team, the Zimqueens won the second last game of the season. Overall, the coach-team relationship is truly mutually beneficial. The Zimqueens have an open invitation to attend Sunday training in MacLeod, and the juniors from the Diamond Valley Netball Club are given the opportunity to develop their own leadership skills by helping out at Zimqueen training sessions.
Evident in the friendly banter and improved skill and confidence, the Zimqueens have benefited immensely from Colleen and Shane’s coaching.
After their final game, a defeat to the top ranked team in the competition, the opposition approached Colleen to congratulate her and let her know that the game against the Zimqueens was the most competitive game they faced all year.
Aside from the notable development in skill, Cassandra and Colleen agree the Zimqueens have come a long way and note the small signs of higher self-esteem and confidence.
‘Working with the ladies had been good for both sides,’ says Colleen. ‘The Diamond Valley Netball club loves having the ladies involved, and the ladies love the support.’
All the best to the Zimqueens in the upcoming 2015 season!