Passion, enthusiasm drives Ladies team
The Challenge Matamata Swifts Ladies football team is on the cusp on achieving something coach Nigel Leaver thought would be out of its reach.
The team will play in the Waikato Women’s Knock-out Cup semi-final against Melville United development team at the Matamata Domain this Sunday.
Booking a place in the final would cap off an already remarkable season for the team which was initially earmarked for the Waikato Womens B league.
‘‘I was originally asked by my daughter to get involved with the team last year. She was playing for Matamata College but wanted to step up to play for the Swifts.
‘‘So last year I went along to watch the team play at the end of their season and just thought, yep, ok, we’ll be a team that plays on a Sunday, in the B league.’’
But things changed when the team was unexpectedly moved up into the Waikato Women’s A league for this season.
Leaver knew the other clubs in the competition would have larger playing rosters, more experience, but he didn’t back away from the challenge.
‘‘In fact when we started training I quickly recognised we had some quality players, with good skills and pace. I’ve just been able to tune into that, pull in some help from our manager Rob Cox for some technical assistance and help from our manager, Denise [Adamson].
‘‘I think overall we have performed tremendously. I thought we would have some heavy defeats but that hasn’t happened. I would say the pinnacle so far was beating [top of the table] Cambridge.
‘‘We’ve had our challenges. We’ve lost a few players along the way and sometimes we’ve had to play with just the 11, no subs. So fitness has been a big focus for us, to make sure we can get through that 90 minutes.’’
Dealing with a loss can be difficult but Leaver’s style is to focus on ‘‘the performance’’ and put what happened into perspective to rebuild for the next game.
He’s definitely established a rapport with his team although he’s the first to admit his coaching experience in womens football was limited.
‘‘Most of my coaching experi- ence has been driven by the sport my children have played. I coached a bit overseas, a local village football team, and youth soccer for my daughter Maggie, and coached a bit of rugby as well.
‘‘But most of what I’ve done is based on enthusiasm and passion.’’
Leaver said he would like to return to coach the Swifts Ladies team next season.
‘‘But we need a bigger playing squad. We have a good relationship with the [Matamata] college with some good players coming through there. We’re hoping to see more from the college come through, it’s a huge opportunity for more women to play football in the Waikato.’’
Swifts had last weekend off as their opponents defaulted.
Swifts’ Annemieke Verstraten competes with Cambridge’s Abby Cook during a June 25 match. Swifts play in the Waikato Women’s Knockout Cup semi-final on August 13.