Irene van Dyk, perhaps the best known netballer in New Zealand history, once said: "Learning to win or lose with dignity is all part of growing up. If you have the drive to be the best as a child it helps you later in life."
Gemma Beckett, a 13-year-old netballer, now knows just what she means.
She was suffering from a confidence loss but van Dyk surprised her, turning up at her high school to give the promising player an unexpected lesson in handling the pressure of the difficult position of goal shoot.
As part of ANZ's netball grant scheme, which offers support to grass roots netball communities across New Zealand, van Dyk was secretly sent to Rangi Ruru Girls' School in Christchurch after Gemma's mum, Di, contacted ANZ.
It was an unforgettable moment for Gemma: "Irene taught me how to stay calm under pressure, how not to get stressed out, how to take a breath and make it through a rough time. It was such an awesome opportunity and a huge surprise. I'm so thankful to ANZ for making this happen."
The pressure she was under came from two directions – moving from intermediate to high school and then feeling the pressure of all eyes upon her as goal shoot for her team. It is (alongside goal attack) the only netball position allowed to shoot for goal – a high-pressure role that requires guts, a clear head and steady nerves.
As Di explains, the twin demands of high school and increased pressure on-court started getting to Gemma; her confidence began to wane: "She had a really bad game one Saturday and then we went to an ANZ Premiership game where [Tactix netballer] Ellie Bird was clapped off the court. She started feeling really down and I wanted to do something to help."
When Di saw information about the ANZ scheme, she thought it would provide a great opportunity for Gemma to get her confidence back: "I wanted to reach out and see if it was possible to get some support for Gemma, to help her learn techniques to deal with hearing negative feedback from the sidelines and staying strong in tough situations."
In her application, she described what had been happening, and how she would love Gemma to meet Bird and get some tips on how to handle hard times and keep motivated.
But ANZ decided to take it up a notch, and arranged for Silver Fern legend van Dyk to pop into school and give her advice on dealing with on court pressures.
Irene ended up taking Gemma through a one-on-one coaching session, passing on her best tips for dealing with the pressures of their position. Later in the day, instead of their usual netball training, Gemma's ANZ Premiership heroes from the Tactix, Ellie Bird, Jane Watson and coach Maryanne Delaney, took the school team through their paces.
While Gemma was having her one-on-one with Irene, the rest of her team were taken through a resilience and mental skills training session with Renzie Hanham, a sports performance psychologist. Renzie has worked with all kinds of sports professionals including Silver Ferns and Olympians and took Gemma's team through a session on pressure, resilience and staying on task.
ANZ's netball grant programme is a reflection of ANZ's commitment to all level of netball in New Zealand. They are asking people from around the country what they need to achieve their netball goals and offering everything from inspirational visits from top ANZ Premiership stars to club makeovers and high-performance gear. They are encouraging anyone with a love of the sport to explain what they need for their netball journey.
ANZ's head of sponsorship, Sue McGregor, says they were so pleased to give Gemma and her teammates such an inspirational experience and look forward to helping other players realise their netball dreams.
"We're so pleased to have been able to put on this training session for Gemma and her teammates. The skills learned in this session will carry Gemma and her team throughout their netball careers and help them overcome the challenges and adversity they are sure to encounter on the netball court.
"We know sometimes all you need is just that little bit of extra help to achieve and so we are committed to helping as many netball fans as we can."
*Tell ANZ what you need to achieve your netball goals at www.anzcourtside.co.nz