Paula Stuart reflects on her time in Tonga

In July, High-Performance coach, Paula Stuart visited Tonga as part of Netball Australia’s international development program, One Netball Pacific. She shared her experience with us…

I was very excited to be involved with Netball Australia’s One Netball Pacific, in visiting Tonga to work with coaches on the outer islands of ‘Eua and Vava’u. All officials and participants were very welcoming, and open to expanding their knowledge as well as working hard to ensure that my assistance to them was relevant to their needs in setting up programs and progressing their netball coaching development.

After a very early morning arrival, we had our first meeting with the Tonga Netball Association, and commenced planning what they wanted to achieve during my time in Tonga.  The purpose of the visit was to mentor coaches and teams as they prepared for the Te Tau Lava Senior A competition being held in Nuku’alofa at the end of July.

Our first stop was the island of ‘Eua where we were met by enthusiastic players and coaches who were ready to take on any challenge that was put to them. The players worked hard, with the coaches joining in and actively encouraging the players throughout. The training expanded across the three days with the players starting to push themselves even harder, and with the coaches very interested in learning and expanding their knowledge of netball. The ‘Eua team were in camp and stayed together to use the opportunity for team bonding, including an afternoon of sightseeing around the beautiful island.

The island of Vava’u was where we spent several days running through training sessions and programs with the coaches of the representative team.  Our visit to Vava’u coincided with the King’s Birthday, it was a highlight to witness the whole island taking part in the festivities and celebrations.

For me, the relationships and experiences gained during my time in Tonga will be long remembered very fondly.  Although my assistance was through coaching the coaches and helping them with their team preparations, I felt privileged to witness and play my small part in what the coaches were developing as a learning environment for their players. They made their players feel part of a team, and community, with shared experiences and wonderful friendships formed.