Family a key factor for Diamonds stars

There are few things that would make you prouder than representing your country at the Commonwealth Games.

But watching your child pull on the green and gold would certainly go close.

When our Australian Diamonds take to the court this week as they begin their quest for gold on the Gold Coast, there’ll be another (bigger) team who’ll be living and breathing every moment with them from the stands: the parents and partners.

Nerves, logistical issues, rivalries and concerns about things like court time are all matters that are just as real for the players’ families as they are for the players themselves. So just like their high-flying daughters, it pays to be prepared.

Jo Weston’s mum Trish is just one of many parents who’ll be watching their daughter compete at the Commonwealth Games for the first time, and said the stakes were higher both on and off the court.

“Although she was in the World Youth Cup team in 2013, this is just so much bigger, so more recognised. It’s just great that it is a home Games, that’s fantastic, it’s really exciting,” Trish said.

The Weston family has had its share of challenges along Jo’s journey to the Commonwealth Games, from Jo having to wait behind her more experienced teammates for opportunities on previous tours, to the uncertainty of whether she’d win selection this time around.

“It has been challenging with Jo being in the team and in the last few years not getting court time. With Sharni (Layton) and then Laura (Geitz) coming back into the team, it was never certain that she would be in,” Trish said.

“She did her best, she got some court time on the last tour, which was terrific. Knowing how hard she has worked for so many years, it’s a great reward for all the effort.”

Then, of course, there are the veteran families who’ve traversed the globe to support their children’s sporting quests over the years, and have pretty much seen and done it all.

This isn’t the first rodeo for Chris Browne – mother of veteran Diamonds wing attack Madi Robinson and fellow Suncorp Super Netball star Kelsey Browne – who’s lived the highs and lows of national and international netball with her daughters for more than a decade.

Despite her love of the game and her daughters’ places within it, she’s fully prepared to bite her tongue and barely utter a netball-related word to Robinson throughout the tournament.

“You don’t expect having much access to your kids, you understand that they are here to play,” Browne said.

“If they need to be doing recovery, you have to understand that. Most of us know our kids and we laugh about it. I know that I do not email or text them, I let them dictate. It’s on their terms and when it suits them.”

To help the players’ families give their daughters the best possible support throughout the tournament, Netball Australia has implemented a ‘parents and partners’ program, which educates them about the players’ requirements, the support staff’s roles and the logistical side of the event, as well as ensuring the families feel a part of the journey.

Trish Weston said it was an eye-opener to learn just how much planning goes into the team’s performance over the next two weeks.

“I’ve got more of an understanding of the work that goes in and what I need to do as a support person for Jo. I know that I can rely on the great expertise that the Diamonds support team has, getting to know who they are. I’ve heard the names, I recognise their faces and can understand the high-tech environment.

“Just understanding the degree of analysis and support, the individual attention the athletes get has been terrific. When you are actually here, when you see them, when you are watching the coach talk to them, then you really appreciate the effort that goes into creating this great team.”

For Browne, the parents and partners program was a great chance to meet some of the newer parents in the Diamonds fold, as well as impart a bit of wisdom from all those years of being in the stands.

“I find that because I’ve been around a while with some of the other parents, that we are quite comfortable, we have been to Commonwealth Games, we have done some of that stuff, but some of the other parents are feeling very uncomfortable, very nervous,” she said.

“We’ve been able to have conversations about what to take into the stadium, how we dress, knowing about the tickets. They are little things, but once you get there it’s like, ‘Oh my goodness’.”

“This team compared to the Glasgow team, this is a very young, inexperienced. There are a lot of young parents, a lot of first-timers. But it’s good because you have a couple of us oldies around that have been there and done that and are quite happy to say, ‘It’s going to be ok’.”