Natalie Panagarry

Natalie Panagarry talks VNSL finals weekend

Ahead of the Vitality Netball Superleague finals this weekend we speak to Elite Netball Academy ambassador and Loughborough Lightning captain Natalie Panagarry. We cover how she deals with nerves, making mistakes and being in the moment.

First up, let’s talk about dealing with nerves, how do you manage them ahead of big occasions?

I’ve always thought nerves are a good thing. They show you care and that you’re passionate about what you’re doing. If you don’t get butterflies, then what’s going to give you the adrenaline you need for the game? For me, nerves are a reminder that netball is something I love doing, so I use them to my advantage.

I’m my own worst critic, rarely am I satisfied with my performance and I always want to improve. This is something I’ve had to work on as I’ve got older. Understanding and appreciating that you’re not always going to be perfect on the court and you will make errors and mistakes helps. Afterall that’s what happens in sport right? It’s how you react to those errors and what you do next for your team that matters.

When I was younger I would get nervous but as soon as I hit the court I felt more comfortable. I was relaxed and having fun with my friends. As my career has progressed and the important of matches has increased (playing in the top league in the country and for the Roses), that element of fun can sometimes get a little lost in my head. I started to put more pressure on myself. Not just to perform for myself, but for my teammates, family, friends, the club, fans and your country!

Natalie Panagarry playing for England
Natalie Panagarry playing WD for the England Roses.

It’s natural to make mistakes, it’s how you learn from them that matters

A few years ago I was that concerned about making a mistake that I never used to see any positives in my game. Playing Centre you touch the ball a lot, 100 plus passes per game. You’re touching the ball more so you are more likely to make errors – but even if I made one I would keep thinking about it. I pride myself on being a controlled player, who doesn’t make many mistakes and can be stable for the team. However, at the same time – you have to give yourself a licence to let the ball go, see what teams can and can’t get to. How much you can push your teammates and all this means that you have to be brave!!!

So fast forward to the last few years and I’ve found a routine that works for me. Don’t get me wrong I still get very nervous and those butterflies still come the night before game day. But I think exploring options to try make yourself feel calmer, more prepared and be at one with trusting your ability is something players need to do. 

I love watching videos and watching players I’m coming up against. Seeing where I can use my strengths against the opposition. The more research I do the more prepared I feel which helps my nerves. In training I would work on specific areas of my game that I wanted to improve, knowing these small, incremental improvements would help with my game day nerves. Talking through plays with teammates also helps, it also keeps building that all important bond. 

Nutrition and rest the day before a game are also important. Making sure I’m fuelling my body correctly so I know that when I step out on the court I can give all my energy for the whole game. Find out what your pre-match meal is, trial and error is the best way, and importantly make sure it’s something you feel comfortable having before lots of movement too!

Natalie Panagarry playing for Loughborough Lightning
Natalie with her Loughborough Lightning teammates

How people deal with nerves differently

I’ve noticed that in the changing rooms or on the drive to the venues is when you start to see people’s dealing mechanisms. Some players want to fully focus and drown out any noise, so in go the headphones and they listen to music that will either lift the mood or soothe and calm down the voices in their head. 

Some players like to talk a lot, go for a walk with teammates and just chat about anything other than netball to feel relaxed. I’m definitely this type of player – I like to be around the girls in the changing room. I like to talk to coaches and players – this helps me relax. 

Top tip – As a team, you can create energy with a pre-game playlist for the changing room. Everyone picks a song they like and it gets blasted out on the game day – that can really help settle the whole team.

And once you hit the court…

Talk to your coaches – you may need a few focus points so when you go on the court you can think about one or two things. We’ve all been there, you make a few mistakes and you start to spiral mentally. Tell a teammate or your coach and give them the chance to say something that will bring you back into the moment – start thriving not just surviving. 

For me, I use the players around me. If I’m playing at Centre, I will communicate a lot with my WD or WA. Lots of fist taps, lots of positive communication to each other. So, if one of you needs it you know they have your back – they will help you start to relax again.

Also just remember to have fun – it’s so important. Everyone gets nervous even the best players in the world do. Try to embrace them, they’re good, they show that you’re passionate. Take a deep breath. Know you’ve done the hard work behind the scenes to prepare with your team and you’ll play the best netball you can, you’ll support everyone around you and you’ll work together. 

Natalie Panagarry playing Centre for Loughborough Lightning
Natalie Panagarry playing Centre for Loughborough Lightning

A mistake isn’t just the individuals, it’s the teams. The best teams in the world are the ones who back each other up no matter what. Every mistake or missed shot is a chance to turn it back over and work hard for your team. 

Sometimes there is so much pressure to win that you can get lost in the moment and in the game. You can become so scared of losing that it stops you from taking the opportunity to win. The team can then get caught up in the fear. The fear of letting down yourself, your club and your teammates. The fear of failure.

It’s something I’ll be doing this week to prepare for finals weekend with Loughborough Lightning. We’ll be making sure we stay in the moment going through the motions at training and putting in the building blocks to know we are as strong as we can be. This is a huge opportunity and anything can happen at finals weekends. As long as we play our style and give everything we’ve got the Lightning way, then for me as a captain I’ll know we gave it our everything. I’ll have no regrets. 

Have fun and never lose sight of the reason you play netball!

Natalie xx

Photography courtesy of:

Ben Lumley Photography

Morgan Harlow

England Netball

A big thank you to Natalie Panagarry for talking to us ahead of the final weekend of VNSL, you can catch all the action on Sky Sports Netball.

About Natalie Panagarry – you can find out more about Elite Netball Academy Ambassador Natalie Panagarry here.

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