New book 'Will to Win' focuses on leadership and team culture in NZ netball

Will to Win is published by Massey University Press.

Professor Andy Martin.

Dr Geoff Watson.

The Silver Ferns have often had a bad rap in the court of media opinion, with significant losses to the Australians and surprise defeats at international tournaments over the decades. At other times, they are world beaters at the
top of their game. What does it take to make the magic work?

Canvassing legendary captains and coaches across the decades — from Lois Muir and Leigh Gibbs to Bernice Mene, Ruth Aitken and Casey Kopua — the authors of Will to Win evaluate the significance of team culture and leadership in New Zealand netball. The book also looks at the history of the game and includes comments from Farah Palmer on women in sport and leadership.

This is the first time the perspectives of those at the heart of netball have been the subject of serious analysis. Offering rare insights and revelations, Will to Win goes behind the scenes to evaluate the psychology of a women’s high-performance team — from the early days of the sport, where training schedules, travel, gear and nutrition were ad hoc at best, through to today’s highly-competitive, semi-professional environment, where sports science helps to drive the game.

Fostering the will to win in what has become an elite level sport for women, those interviewed for the book speak candidly about their experiences —career highs and lows, the impact of the Ferns’ intense rivalry with Australia; personal and professional challenges; hard work and desire to win; struggle for recognition; complexities of combining motherhood with competition netball.

We hear how players and coaches coped with increasingly high-stakes international competitions, heart-breaking losses, vagaries of social media, struggles for sponsorship and media recognition. Throughout, those selected to wear the ‘black dress’ with the silver fern had to strive and adapt, while maintaining their core focus on teamwork, and the values of respect, pride and hard work.

Will to Win takes a long overdue deep-dive into the psyche of New Zealand’s most popular team sport. Imparting wisdom about the significance of developing team culture and leadership in sport, business and life, it is also a practical guide that will inspire generations to come.

About the authors

Dr Lana McCarthy is a lecturer in teacher education at Charles Sturt University, Australia. She completed her doctoral thesis, ‘Coaches, Captains and Constructing Culture: A Case Study of the Silver Ferns’, at Massey University, Palmerston North, in 2019. She was formerly an assistant lecturer in the School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition at Massey University.

Dr Andy Martin is a professor in the School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition at Massey University, Palmerston North. He is the lead author of Outdoor & Experiential Learning (2004). He is also co-author of Legends in Black with Geoff Watson and Tom Johnson (2014). He holds professional coaching qualifications in football and tennis, and has been actively involved in coaching at both junior and senior level.

Dr Geoff Watson is a senior lecturer in the School of Humanities at Massey University, Palmerston North, where he teaches history. He is the principal author of Seasons of Honour: A Centennial History of New Zealand Hockey 1902–2002 (2002) and Sporting Foundations of New Zealand Indians: A Fifty-year History of the New Zealand Indian Sports Association (2012). He co-authored Sport and the New Zealanders: A history (2018).

Will to Win is published by Massey University Press.