Samantha Bird opens up on London Pulse's ambitions and culture
"It's really important for London Pulse to have a really strong culture and philosophy about women being proud to play sport in London and having really good role models in London"
By Emma Thurston
Last Updated: 07/11/19 1:11pm
London Pulse's ambitions and the franchise's goals for the future have been undeterred by a challenging first season in Superleague as their new director of netball Samantha Bird shares with Sky Sports.
Instead of being daunted by finishing at the foot of the table, they're looking ahead through excited eyes and have absolutely no intentions of remaining in the lower positions for long.
"[CEO Natalie Seaton and I] are very keen for London Pulse to be one of the best clubs in the country," Bird exclusively told Sky Sports.
"That's tough when you're a new club so it's really important that you recruit the right type of personnel. Players who are going to take that ambition on, who want to commit to the club and who want not just to improve personally, but want the club to achieve as well."
Bird, who has coached in Superleague since its inception and the days of Super Cup, arrives at Pulse after a three-year period with Severn Stars. She will combine leading the franchise with her role as England Netball's Futures head coach.
Introducing our shooters for our SuperLeague squad!— London Pulse Netball (@Pulse_Netball) October 18, 2019
We've been so excited to share the players who will be joining the Pulse family for the 2020 season and can't wait to see you all at the Copper Box for our home games this season.#RaiseYourPulse 💗🖤 pic.twitter.com/Ox954qCfBU
Players form the heart of any franchise and unlike her predecessor, Pulse's new director of netball has a long run into the new season and was able to spend the summer recruiting the individuals that she wanted.
When the announcement was made about Pulse's new squad all of the players were announced at once in order to highlight their message that the team is one unit. The players were also all introduced by people that are close to them, something that was important to their new director of netball.
"Particularly at this level, it's about coaching the people and recognising that they are individuals who have all come from different backgrounds and have different pressures - whether they are a full-time pro athlete, whether they're studying or whether they have a job as well," Bird said.
"It's recognising the people that sit behind them that enable them to do that, so we wanted to be quite visible about that on our launch."
London Pulse's 2020 Superleague Squad
|Sigi Burger||Chiara Semple|
|Olivia Tchine||Kira Rothwell|
|Adean Thomas||Michelle Drayne|
|Ashleigh Dekker||Kate Lloyd|
|Halimat Adio||Lindsay Keable|
|Funmi Fadoju||Chloe Gregory|
From the list of players announced, Bird's detailed knowledge of the young talent within England is clear and now a good proportion of that talent will be mentored by her at club level.
As a former player herself, and one that was selected for England at 15, she knows the important of having the right people alongside these young and talented players.
"I think that what they need is some experienced heads around them in order to cope with the pressures of playing Superleague and managing their lives.
"The older players have been through a lot of the experiences that the younger ones will be having - we've got people just starting university so they'll be finding their feet, studying and having to manage all of that.
"The older athletes who have been through that will be able to set a really good standard in terms of what culture we want," she added.
With such a packed squad the director of netball, who is a sports fan in general and has been enjoying the current Rugby World Cup, noted England boss Eddie Jones' recent comments and shared how they will apply to Pulse this season too.
"I thought that Eddie Jones' quote was fantastic about changing your outlook and saying that he hadn't dropped George Ford [for the Australia quarter-final], he'd just changed the player's role.
"That's very much in line with what we're looking to do. There are so many talented players and it's about keeping them engaged.
"England needs to win at a top level, at world-class level, and in order to do that our job at London Pulse is to produce those players to help England win major competitions.
"So it's really nice to be thinking about that we are going to produce the next world-class netballer she's going to come from London and nobody really knows who she is yet. It's a great job to have.
The subject of culture and the philosophies with it are all areas that Bird, who describes herself as a perennial academic, loves to study. At the heart of Pulse's identity, the one that Bird and her players are currently shaping, is the need to use their platform to inspire others.
"I think that it's really important for London Pulse to have a really strong culture and philosophy about women being proud to play sport in London and having really good role models in London.
"It's really important for me to feel that I'm able to do that as well. I live near London, I went to university in London and I feel very connected to the area and the athletes that I've got.
"I'm very much about creating opportunities for people from all backgrounds and anyone that wants to be involved, and involved with netball in particular, should be given an opportunity.
"It's often those that otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to play that graft hard and become the best players."
Of course, with any franchise or club, the 'first team' and its output often shapes how those outside of it view them. Bird is well aware of this and of Pulse's need to attack the Superleague stage.
"Pulse reflects London in that it's a very diverse team. We want to be a very exciting team, we want to play with a lot of style but be driven about performance" the director of netball explained.
"I want the team to play with flair, I want people to see that players can play freely and stay within their own style but that also fits within the club.
"I want us to be really watchable so that people want to come and see what Pulse can do and to be an exciting team. I think that these players are already showing that in training."
February 2020 and the Superleague Season Opener may sound like it's a long way off but we all know that time has a tendency to race by in sport.
In a flash we'll all be eagerly watching Pulse take to court against Sirens and seeing just how well their blend of experience and youth has developed under the charge of their dynamic new director of netball.
Sky Sports is your home of netball and live action returns with the Vitality Roses' three-Test tour to South Africa. The first Test from the Velodrome in Cape Town will be shown live on November 29 at 5.00pm.