Sara Bayman wants Loughborough Lightning to play with no regrets in Vitality Netball Superleague 2019
"I just don't think there's any point losing games wondering what we could have done. My message to the girls has always been to go out and attack games."
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 04/01/19 12:07pm
Sara Bayman's move from playing at the elite level to managing at it has been a swift one and, with just a few days to go before the new Vitality Netball Superleague season, she speaks to Sky Sports about Lougborough Lightning's identity, her philosophies and lessons from Pep Guardiola.
Lightning's season starts in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Saturday at Arena Birmingham. They're second on court at Super 10 and facing the side that's caused them more angst than any other over the past two years - Wasps.
A Grand Final re-match as your first competitive Superleague game in charge may be daunting to some, but not for this new Director of Netball.
Instead, the former England international is eager for the season to get underway after 12 weeks of pre-season training. She's crystal clear about what she wants to see from her squad, has clear-cut philosophies and has already had the opportunity to pick the brains of one of the best world sport.
In her own words Bayman "didn't really know" what she wanted to do after her playing career finished, but, quickly realised that the role at Lightning was exactly the right one for her:
"I think it's just a really good environment for me to start my management career just because of all of the support that you've got around you at Loughborough.
"There's a lot of people here who have been through similar experiences, people like Olivia Murphy who is kind of like a mentor for me to turn to, and so, when I saw this opportunity I thought, 'that actually really makes sense for me'."
What also makes great sense is the 34-year-old's perspective on netball, a perspective that's been defined through years of performing at the highest level - Bayman has 84 international caps to her name alongside vast domestic experience.
"What I believe in, and what I believed in as a player, is that there's not really an excuse to not work hard. You can, not play well and lose matches to better teams but, you should never been out-worked. There's no reason for that"
"I just don't think there's any point losing games wondering what we could have done. My message to the girls has always been to go out and attack games. To be really positive, to try and win ball off teams and try and take our ball to goal.
"If it can look pretty then fantastic, and if it can't then we just make sure that it gets there any which way. I think our aims have been to be as proactive and intense as we can and just really attack it and be positive.
"I don't think we do ourselves justice if we give teams too much respect or if we go out there and back off. So, just go out there and give it everything. Work hard, play for each other and good things will happen."
As you'd expect Bayman cites Murphy, her franchise director, as a "mentor to turn to". But, as part of her part-time Masters at Salford University she had the opportunity to enjoy an hour and a half audience with one of football's great managers - Guardiola. So, what do you ask such a renowned sporting mind?
"All sorts. Around how he creates a team culture within the teams that he's in, if there's been massive differences between Spain, Germany and here," said Bayman, who relished the meeting with Manchester City's manager despite her football allegiances lying elsewhere with Liverpool!
"He obviously has got a really clear vision of how he wants the team to play and I found it quite interesting how he perceives his role as being.
"He was very much… 'I get the team to play well and I look after the team and the football side of things and everyone else does their own job, I don't interfere with that because they're all better at their job than I am'.
"So, actually, you've just got to trust people that they're going to do their job so that the big machine runs."
Superleague 2019: All you need to know
The Vitality Netball Superleague 2019 returns this weekend and here we look over some of the new-season talking points.
Trusting the team around her is something that Bayman will take into the new Superleague season and she's very clear that empowering her players is also vital:
"I think a big part of pre-season, as well, has been a big emphasis on trying to get the players to own this club, to own this brand, to own their image and to make it what they want it to be. They don't have to play for a team, they are the team," she noted.
"So, just trying to get that across and making sure that everyone is proud to be part of this. That we play a style of netball that we're proud of, that we're the kind of team and the kind of people that others want to be associated with and want to be a part of."
Lightning have come agonisingly close to winning Superleague for the past two seasons, coming short against Wasps in both 2017 and 2018. For Bayman, an important decision was how to handle those losses with her squad.
"We toyed with what to do around the Grand Final stuff, whether we go in hard, fully address it and unpick it piece by piece. Or, whether we start again? And, we've pretty much started again."
"Because we've lost so many players from last season, it's a completely different looking group and there's a danger that if you start talking about the past too much, you put that kind of baggage on players that haven't experienced it and don't have it to begin with. So, it's pretty much been a fresh start."
With the development of every franchise in Superleague, and the introduction of London Pulse, Bayman is under no illusions about the challenges that all sides will be facing over the coming months.
"This Superleague season is probably going to be one of the most difficult to call for quite a while. So I'm excited to see what teams are doing and to get it kicked off."
As the days rapidly tick down, and that meeting with Wasps edges ever closer, the Director of Netball's call to her side is a rousing one and one that she has reminded them during the more challenging moments of pre-season.
"Do the things that you want to do, don't let teams dictate to you, don't feel restricted by people, don't feel like you can't express yourselves. When you do that and you enjoy yourselves, you play really well. So, don't let nerves or fear or anything like that stop you doing what you want to do."
Bayman may be fresh into management but she's arriving with sound principles, a burning passion to learn and succeed and has great experience around her. Needless to say, it's very clear that Lightning are moving into this new Superleague season in very good hands.
A huge 2019 for netball on Sky Sports gets underway on Saturday January 5 with all 10 teams in action, coverage on Sky Sports Mix, Arena and Main Event begins at 10.45am