Surrey Storm director Mikki Austin discusses challenges of leading franchise and playing at same time
Last Updated: 30/09/19 7:04am
In August 2018, Mikki Austin was announced as Surrey Storm's director of netball and she immediately took on the substantial task of leading a franchise and playing for it at the same time.
The mid-court player entered her first director of netball role with significant pedigree at Surrey Storm. She was part of the back-to-back title winning squad in 2015 and 2016 and was a three-time winner of the fans' Player of the Season award.
Running a Storm academy hub and a coaching role at Putney High School laid strong foundations for stepping up but the 26-year-old admits that last season wasn't easy.
"Last year for all sorts of different reasons was really difficult," Austin told Sky Sports.
"I'll be really honest. Everybody says this is your dream job and don't get me wrong, it is - I am so lucky and so blessed to get to say that I have this opportunity to do what I do - but there is nothing that can prepare you for this job other than just doing it and trial and error.
"Now that I've got a year under my belt, I feel a lot more prepared for what is to come for the rollercoaster that is Superleague. But I'm 26 and I've worked really hard for the majority of my playing career to put myself in a position where I am an athlete first. I still have that mentality.
"First and foremost I am a netballer. I am a player and that's what I want to do. I am really lucky that I am supported by an organisation - a franchise in the University of Surrey that back me doing both roles."
The team understands that I want to do both roles and they support me in that
Austin explains her dual role
Surrey Storm finished last season in eighth after earning six victories from their 18 league fixtures and Austin admits that the whole period was a challenge.
"To be really honest I came into this job last year really late. Probably a lot later than anyone needed to come into a job like this, so you're fighting fires consistently and trying to get things going and setting them up if that makes sense. That was a really stressful period.
"I always knew this time around was going to be completely different obviously because I had more time.
"I think because last year was so stressful, as soon as that Grand Final was done, it was 'Right, all things go in preparation for next year and let's get as much done as physically possible in May, June and July so when it comes to pre-season time in September, all we have to focus on is the playing part'. I think that was super smart."
Austin's focus and early preparations mean that she now has her squad locked down. It's a squad that's made up of 70 per cent of returnees and then some new additions in key areas.
Austin believes the new additions will "pay real dividends" and they include Northern Ireland international Niamh Cooper and Leah Middleton from Queensland Firebirds.
Yasmin Hodge-England, the franchise's all-time leading appearance maker, Katy Hughes and Yaz Parsons have also returned.
Austin will be continuing to announce the rest of Storm's 15-player squad over the coming weeks.
The British Fast5 Netball All-Stars Championship, which is live on Sky Sports on October 12, will be our first chance to see some of them in action.
"I love this job and I completely understand how much of an opportunity I have which is really rare," Austin added. "I definitely don't take that for granted no matter how stressful it may seem.
"I've always wanted this opportunity and I will take every day as it comes. We have aims and ambitions for Fast5 and beyond what we want to achieve in Vitality Netball Superleague in 2020, so I'll do everything I can for us as a playing group to achieve that."
Sky Sports is your home of netball and it returns to your screens shortly, starting with the British Fast5 All-Stars Championships on Saturday, October 12, while the Roses returning to televised action under Jess Thirlby when they tour South Africa in November.