Lessons from a "very short person" at the Netball World Cup

Lessons from a "very short person" at the Netball World Cup

This week, we have a guest blog written by Mandy Mistlin… former Unilever Consumer and Technology Insight Director for refreshment. Mandy is an Underdog associate who recently volunteered at the Netball World Cup and was moved to write about three key experiences and how they relate to our work. Over to you Mandy…

I LOVE Netball.

I appreciate not everyone feels the same way, but all you need to know is that, like in football, us netball fans all get a bit excited when the world cup is on, especially when it’s hosted on home soil.

Don’t know Netball? Well, it’s like basketball without the dribbling, only played professionally by women (very tall ones), mostly from Commonwealth countries, dominated by Australia and New Zealand but threatened by England who won the Commonwealth Games in 2018, beating the Aussies by 1 goal in the final second.

Having just come back from a stint volunteering at the Netball World Cup in Liverpool I wanted to share 3 lessons I learnt from that amazing experience.

1. Biggest is not always Best

The Sri Lanka team included a 6’10 shooter. Being a giant should make scoring very simple, but in the end, they came last. Why? Because without the ball, she can’t shoot and her team couldn’t get the ball to her!

Lesson: Like many aspects of building brands, the process of ‘scoring’ requires multiple steps to be completed well if the ‘ball’ is going to make it into the ‘net’. Doing this requires a team that is made up of people who are each good at their role (be it Goal Defence or Goal Attack) and play together as a unit.

As someone who classes themselves as ‘a very short person’ and therefore the ultimate underdog, I am happy to say that size isn’t a barrier to being great if I bring the skills and team spirit. Oh, but did I mention my age? – I know Federer and Serena are out there in their 30’s but they’ve still got two decades on me. Perhaps I’ll focus on my coaching and picking the right team!


2. Create an Experience

For the first time, Zimbabwe qualified for the netball world cup.

My standout memory of them is not the team’s performance but the supporters’ performance. They were A-Maz-Ing. (Remember the impact of those Icelandic supporters in the football?)

Zimbabwe supporters filled the arena with their singing, dancing and drumming. They gave Zimbabwe flagsticks to anyone who’d take one, creating honorary Zimbabweans and boosting their support in a stroke of PR brilliance. Everyone wanted to be a part of that feeling!

Lesson: Passion. Exuberance. Personality… these are all infectious, drawing people in and leaving them with positive memories. That’s how customers should feel after their interaction with your brand and there are lessons in here about building customer experience that leaves a lasting impression and allows you to build your tribe.


3. Just Shoot!

Games played at this level are understandably high stakes and you can see the impact of that pressure, even on professionals. Players pass the ball to the Shooters expecting them to shoot (the clue’s in the position name), but they don’t. Instead, they keep passing it round the circle till they’re right under the net. I get it. They can’t afford to miss, but this strategy risks losing the ball and the frustration of the spectators is palpable, often accompanied by screams of “just shoot” from supporters.

Now I know those shooters are good enough to make the shot, but they only seem to go for it when time is running out.

Lesson: If you have a chance, take it. You might not get another one.

Spoiler Alert: New Zealand won the world cup. I’ve mentioned about the role of a great team, working well together, but must make mention on their much-loved shooter. Guess what, she’s brave enough to shoot when she has a chance, including from further out.

Wrap Up:

I will wear my England netball T-shirt with pride. To me it will serve as a reminder of a great time but also of some important lessons. Whilst putting that top on will serve to boost my self-confidence, it will also remind me of the power that comes with working with the talent around me, building strong teams, identifying a clear goal and taking chances whenever they present themselves!


Guest Blogger : Former refreshment director at Unilever Mandy is an expert in strategic leadership, people development, coaching, communication and consumer behaviour & insight.