From her early secondary school days, netball coaching has been a passion of Elissa Kent (nee Macleod).
The talented midcourter took charge of her first team at the Vermont South Netball Association when she was in Year 7 and she’s continued to coach at various levels while forging a successful playing career in the Commonwealth Bank Trophy and ANZ Championship.
While Kent’s playing days are `temporarily’ on hold – she’s due to give birth to her second child later this year – her coaching career is going from strength to strength.
Kent has been appointed coach of Melbourne University Lightning’s Championship side in the Victorian Netball League and is excited about the challenge of stepping into a state league position.
“I’ve always loved coaching,” Kent said.
“I’m not a teacher but I do love teaching and I get really excited about seeing girls learning something new and then putting that into place. I enjoy working with people and getting the best out of them.
“It’s great to start coaching straight after you finish (as a player) because you still have a lot of fresh ideas and passion for the game.”
Kent made her name as a centre court specialist with Melbourne Kestrels, a stint in the UK Super League with Northumbria, then in the ANZ Championship over 40 games with the Queensland Firebirds and Melbourne Vixens.
She also captained Australia in the 2012 Fast5 Netball World Series.
Kent has been fortunate to play under some great coaches in Australia – Joyce Brown, Jane Searle, Marg Lind, Nicole Richardson, Lisa Alexander, Roselee Jencke and Simone McKinnis to name a few.
All have left an impression on Kent and she’s tried to implement bits and pieces from their coaching philosophies into her own style.
“You know what worked and what didn’t work with you as a player,” Kent said. “I’m conscious that people receive messages in different ways and learn differently.
“It will be a big challenge because I’m leading some strong athletes like Fiona Themann, Mikaela Vaughan, Elle Bennetts and Shannon Eagland and we have to provide a system that helps them to improve because they want to get to the next level.
“So I’m under no illusions that I’ll have to do hard work and be pushing those athletes. But I like a challenge.”
Searle and Lind will be coaching rivals to Kent in the VNL this season – as will a former Vixens’ teammate in Jo Curran.
Kent and husband Andrew already have a daughter Frances, born in 2014, and will take a couple of weeks coaching duties mid-season when their second baby is due and hand over the team to assistant Kaylea McQuade.
She said everyone involved with Melbourne University Lightning had been extremely supportive.
“It’s a positive for the club to take that stance with women in sport. The girls are not fussed either. They say it will just be business as usual,” Kent said.
“It’s a matter of doing all the hard work beforehand. We’re lucky to have Kaylea as an assistant coach. She has a wealth of experience she’ll enjoy being in charge of the team for the couple of weeks I’ll be absent.”
As for her future?
Well, Kent hasn’t ruled out playing again – she’s even participated in a couple of training drills to make up numbers – but she’s keen on developing her skills as a coach.
“When I was 10 weeks pregnant (with Frances) I deep a beep test at the Vixens in 40 degrees. Sometimes I have to remember that I am pregnant and not quite as fit as I was,” Kent joked.
“I’m a pretty ambitious person. But I also realise that you need to prove yourself so I’m wanting to see how I go with this role.
“If the girls enjoy it and I get positive feedback and the club believes that I’m doing well then that will encourage me to progress my coaching career.”
Photos courtesy of Brian Shelton/David Callow