She knew she had a challenge ahead of her when Tamsin Greenway became head coach of Scotland’s national netball team, the Scottish Thistles.
But the challenges the Englishwoman would face in her first year of work could not have been expected by even the most far-sighted people.
In February, Greenway took over from longtime head coach Gail Parata, and her promotion was seen as a big coup for the Scotland staff, considering her impressive record as a player and coach.
However, what Greenway hadn’t counted on was that for much of the year she held squad planning and team meetings online and for the first six months she didn’t even meet her players in person.
It may have been a different start than Greenway had foreseen, but the 38-year-old was not discouraged by the lack of hands-on coaching that she had been able to do on the job in her first few months.
Now, however, Greenway is really beginning to reach her stride. She revealed her first squad in November, which includes some familiar faces as well as some new talent, and she will keep her team to the same high expectations that she herself holds.
Greenway accumulated a wealth of titles as a player, including three Surrey Storm Super League titles, and as an international, she was part of the England team that won bronze in the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and bronze in the World Cup in 2011 and 2015.
Then Greenway went into coaching, winning two Superleague titles at Wasps as netball manager.
The track record shows that Greenway is brimming with ambition, and it confirms that with the Scottish Thistles, who are currently ninth in the world rankings, her aspirations are bold.
“In the short term, the goal should be to be in the top eight in the world, but in the longer term, I see no reason why you shouldn’t have the ambition to be better than that,” she says.
It’s sport and it’s about making improvements, and the dream should still be amazing internationally.
It is about putting in place a curriculum that brings the sport to a new level. It starts right now, and I really look forward to working with the community because I know they’re excited to make some improvements.
It’s a matter of shifting cultures and pushing the sport forward for me.
It’s never going to be easy, but instead of just sitting back and accepting where you are, it’s nice to have the drive to do something exciting.
“I think there are so many opportunities to make an impact with this team, and while big changes take time, we’re definitely looking forward to it.”
In her position as a coach with Wasps, Greenway has previous experience, but after a year out, during which she featured extensively in Sky Sports’ netball coverage, the Englishwoman was eager to get back into the thick of stuff.
She acknowledges that the Scottish FA was really desirable and is assured that she will take the Thistles to the next level by using her at the highest level for almost two decades.
New Zealand, Australia and England remain globally in a class of their own – each World Cup and Commonwealth Games in the history of the sport have been dominated by the two nations from Oceania, aside from England’s win at the 2018 Commonwealth Games – but Greenway is adamant the gap is narrowing as the sport is much more competitive than when it made its international breakthrough.
I’ve seen England evolve and I’ve seen teams like Jamaica, South Africa and a lot of African and Caribbean nations evolve, as well as home nations, and that challenge is one of the things that really attracted me to international netball,”The game has really changed recently – I’ve seen England evolve and I’ve watched teams like Jamaica, South Africa and a lot of the African and Caribbean nations evolve, as well as the home nations, and that challenge is one of the things that really drew me to international netball,”The game has really changed recently.
For a new squad, change is not always possible, but there is the infrastructure and vision in Scotland to incorporate things that will make the team stronger both on and off the field.
It’s not going to happen overnight, so why shouldn’t teams ranked fifth to tenth in the world have the drive to make a difference and raise the world’s netball standard?
“In the long term, the goal has to be for all of world netball to get closer together so that there are four or five teams competing for gold instead of just two.”
Greenway would have had her first international experience at the Netball Europe Open in Glasgow last August had the 2020 sports calendar not been decimated by the pandemic.