Mikki Austin is never one to shy away from a challenge and as she steps into a new season at the helm of Surrey Storm, whilst still playing, she continues to show that the qualities of hard work and determination pay dividends.
The 26-year-old signed for Surrey Storm in 2015 and hasn’t looked back since. As a tenacious and fiercely competitive member of their mid-court, she was part of their two title-winning squads in 2015 and 2016 before being announced as their new director of netball in July 2018.
Austin is part of a wave of individuals who are all looking to drive the sport forwards off the court, whilst maintaining their playing careers on it.
“There’s no better time to be involved in netball than right now, it’s so prevalent and at the forefront of a lot of conversations,” Austin said to Sky Sports.
“Also, being a female in sport, that conversation is so prevalent nowadays too. If there ever was a time to take an opportunity like this, then it’s now.”
The opportunity that Austin speaks of is being a player, head coach and director of netball for the franchise.
Austin always had the goal of running a Superleague franchise. However, the opportunity to do so arose sooner than she expected and with that came apprehension.
“Initially it was quite daunting,” she said. “There were all sorts of different emotions in me which included wondering if I could do it?
“That was because, at that point, it was quite an unknown in terms of somebody taking on all of that responsibility. Another unknown was moving from being a player within the group to having the other positions.
It’s just a constant learning process. There’s nothing that can really prepare you for it apart from doing it and just throwing yourself into it and be really willing to expose yourself to new experiences along the way.
“I had a chat with my Dad, who is my best friend in the world. Alan Austin is the guru for talking sense and after speaking to him I thought that I had 24 hours to get my head around it and then to do it or not.
“Once I got my head around it [the combined roles], I thought that there was no way on earth that I wouldn’t do it. I believe in myself; I know that I can do this and this is all I ever wanted to do.
“I’m a firm believer that things will fall into place the way that they are meant to. The opportunity fell for me and I’m not one to shy away from a challenge.”
F A S T 5 ?
A post shared by Mikki Austin (@mikki.austin) on
Storm finished eighth after her first season in charge and following a summer period which included securing key new signings like Leah Middleton and Karyn Bailey, they impressed at the British Fast5 All-Stars Championships.
The franchise attacked the competition with smiles on their faces and their happy demeanour transferred across into their work on court.
However, following further weeks of pre-season training, their season-opening match in Birmingham didn’t pan out in the way in which Austin or her players would have liked.
We’ll take the win and reflect on our strengths and weaknesses to build into the next round. It’s there … but it’s now about us showing the flare when it counts! BUT what a FANTASTIC event! Not everyone can say they play netball in a big arena with that crowd! #privileged
A disjointed performance resulted in a single-goal 44-43 victory in front of the 9,000 strong crowd but their director of netball has quickly put it into context.
“As I said to the girls on Tuesday, I’m happy to take it as it is in terms of it almost being a one-off and the start of the season,” Austin said.
“We had quite an honest and open conversation amongst our group. There were some nerves [in Birmingham], apprehension, girls playing in the dress for the first time and it was a really big occasion.
“So, we probably got a little bit overawed by that and then I think there was another 50 per cent of the team knowing that Celtic Dragons were a bit of a bogey team for us last year.
“We lost to them twice, so I think that was almost that in the back of the minds as well.
“Sometimes you just have to find a way to win ugly. I know that it is really early days [in the season] but that could be the sign of a really, really good team.”
Love what you do… definitely not pretty, or perfect but still smiling. So great to kick off @NetballSL with a resilient win, no one else I’d rather be beside than this @SurreyStorm group. Thanks @EnglandNetball for putting on a stellar event ??? #TheJourneyBegins
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The first opportunity for them to dust themselves off and show their true credentials will be in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Monday at Surrey Sports Park. London Pulse are the visitors and Austin isn’t planning on taking them lightly.
“With all teams this year, I think that you have to take them on face value,” Austin said.
“I don’t think you can read too much into what they did last year because every team has adjusted, whether that’s in terms of their personnel or coaching staff.
“Pulse will probably be feeling a little bit confident coming into this game and be boosted by the fact that they won and that they had to dig deep to see their game out. They’ll be feeling quite positive going into the game.
“I think we’re quite evenly matched as two teams so I think it will be a really good game. I think they’re going to come out firing and want to start the game pretty strongly.”
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Win or lose on Monday evening, and of course Austin is aiming for victory in front of their home fans, she is cognisant of the fact that it’s just the beginning of a brand new season.
“We don’t need to be perfect right now, that’s not the aim of the exercise. The aim of the exercise is to slowly improve every single week and then come July, we can have a conversation about where we are.
“As long as we focus on those marginal gains as opposed to being overawed by the bigger picture, hopefully we’ll just continue to build and build every game, every season.
“This year, one thing that makes our league even more exciting than it ever has been, is that every team has got the calibre and the power of players to deliver on their day.
“I don’t think people should be that surprised anymore that there are teams that run others quite close because your name now, doesn’t really stand for anything. Any team, on the day if you don’t perform, will beat you.
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