“Women need to honour other women.”
One of Lisa Alexander AM’s greatest strengths is as a mentor. Over the years many people – including players, coaches, media and volunteers, have benefited from her encouragement, positivity and ‘abundant thinking’. So it’s unsurprising that her new role – a two year contract as Performance Director of the London Pulse – will continue this theme.
Alexander will lead performance strategy, oversee pathway and hub coaches, act as an assistant to VNSL coaches Sam Bird and Fiona Murtagh, and head up the 21 and Under programme. It’s a huge, but mouth-watering, prospect for the former Australian Diamonds’ head coach.
“London Pulse is enormous – it includes 16 academies which is a similar size to New South Wales,” Alexander said. “The pathway and talent on show is enormous. So we will need to work hard to get the talent coming through, making sure there is a world class coaching and performance environment, and I’m also looking forward to learning more efficiently myself.
“Sam (Bird) has the philosophy that she wants the Pulse to be one of the best clubs in the world, and while that’s a really big goal, I want to be part of it.”
Having run Australia’s only Indigenous High Performance camp, and experienced first hand the lack of netball diversity down under, Alexander will embrace working with a wide range of athletes. Based at London’s Copperbox Arena, Pulse draws from a large area – a multicultural region with players that speak a combined total of over 30 languages.
“I want to make sure that Pulse has all the talent available, no matter what culture, creed or religion they are. If people want to be the best they can be, that excites me. It will be important to connect with all the athletes in a respectful way.”
Having parted company with the Australian netball team in February 2020, Alexander had a break before establishing her next role. “I did wonder if I’d be cancelled after finishing with the Diamonds – being of a certain age and a woman as well,” said Alexander. “It took a while, and Covid also interfered with the process, but recently I’ve had a number of offers in netball and other sports.”
The role of Performance Director, while less familiar in Australia, seemed a perfect fit to Alexander. “I’m not going back into the rollercoaster of being a head coach. I’m going in as a different sort of professional and challenging myself in different ways.
“Having a Performance Director is very traditional in England – putting technically proficient people into high performance roles, such as coaches who have done the hard yards.
“In Australia I think we are a bit ageist, and cut people out once they’ve finished playing or coaching. We need to be able to repurpose roles, create opportunities, and bring people back into the sporting environment rather than lose their experience.”
While Alexander will have to wait for a visa before leaving – hopefully to be finalised by mid November – she’s already working.
“I’ve started getting to know the team of staff – as it’s vital to start building relationships, communicating well, and looking at our culture and behaviours. I’m also talking to players and agents here in Australia. If there are players that miss out on contracts here, there can be opportunities for them in the Vitality Super Netball League, and so we need to constantly monitor what’s happening.”
Alexander is looking forward to working with Bird, having corresponded with the former international over a number of years. “When Tracey Neville led the Roses, Sam coached the English Under 21s and Futures. So I’d met her a couple of times, we’ve kept in contact, and she sent me a message when this role came up.
“I went through the right channels and process of application, and luckily was accepted for the job. Sam has a growth mindset, as do I, and so we’re excited to work together and want develop the talent across all the levels of the club. And working with the Under 21s is an age group that I love, where you are transitioning young age group players into the open level and all the rigours that involves.”
In such a wide-ranging role, Alexander said her biggest challenge will be maintaining balance. “I’m a workaholic, and so from a well-being perspective, that’s something I will have to manage.
“I think many women tend to work harder not smarter, and I have to be conscious of that. Looking back at when I was the Diamonds’ coach, I was at my best when I was well rested, well hydrated and looked after my own health too.
“I don’t need to be on court all the time, but when I am it will be high value, high energy and I will give it everything I possibly can.”
While Alexander will miss her Victorian based family, two of her stepsons live in London and Italy. She said, “My husband wants to enjoy London while we are there. It’s a wonderful city, and the area in which we will be living has some beautiful parklands, the river and barge trips. Paris is also very special to us, so we hope to visit there.”
While London Pulse are fortunate to have a Performance Director the calibre of Alexander on board – she has over thirty years of elite experience and an 81% winning record at test match level – she’s also grateful for the opportunity. She explained, “It can be very tough around this age, when many women become invisible.
“To manage that challenge, being authentic and saying your piece at the right time is important. I also work hard at mentoring younger women – I really believe in that.
“I’ve had a few outstanding mentors myself. Margie Caldow, for example, was a great support when we were both with the Diamonds, and was the first person to plant the seed about working in England.
“As women I think we can sometimes be our own worst enemies, and I find I’m a better person when I practice positivity and inclusion with others. I look at all the current Suncorp Super Netball coaches – the work that we’ve done together over many years as coaches, as coaches and players, and in high performance environments – that’s so important for the future of netball in Australia.
“I’m looking forward to continuing that on a more global level during my time at London Pulse.
“It’s one of the reasons why receiving the Order of Australia is something I’m proud of. It doesn’t just recognise me, but the sport of netball, the work that so many of us have done over the years, and also my family that have been my strength in the background.”
Alexander will be gone from Australian shores for at least two years, but will closely follow what’s happening back at home. She said, “I have a lot to thank Netball Victoria and Netball Australia for. The support they’ve given me over the year, the teams and associations that have given me opportunities to practice my craft and do what I love. That bond will never be broken.”
National career highlights
Head coach Australian Diamonds 2011 – 2020 (102 test matches at 81% success rate)
2015 Netball World Cup – gold medal
2014 Commonwealth Games – gold medal
2019 Netball World Cup – silver medal
2018 Commonwealth Games – silver medal
8 Constellation Cup titles
5 Quad series titles
- member Victorian Institute of Sport Board (Performance and Coaching Expert)
- High performance expert and Ambassador – Leading Teams