Jo Vann: Team Bath coach on the similarities between a netball coach and army captain

By Denise EvansBBC Sport
Jo Vann introduces Team Bath players to her army environment, plus Vann in her army uniform
Army captain Jo Vann took her Team Bath players along to see what her day job entailed

The desert of war-torn Afghanistan and a netball court appear to be worlds apart, but not for new Team Bath head coach Jo Vann.

The 35-year-old will take on the role for the new 2020 Superleague season while also continuing her career as an army captain in the air corps.

Vann, who replaces new Vitality Roses head coach Jess Thirlby, says the roles have many similarities.

"The primary one is a huge reliance on team work," Vann told BBC Sport.

"Netball is known as a sport where you don't really have a star player, every one of the seven on court must perform and the army is just like that," she added.

Vann was part of the Team Bath side that secured their first silverware in 2004 - the Super Cup - and she went on to play for the national side.

In 2011, Vann hung up her Team Bath netball dress and started training at Sandhurst and, within a few months, she qualified as an officer.

Following a tour of Afghanistan as flight commander of the 654 Squadron apache, Vann headed to Pirbright in Surrey, an army training base for young, new recruits.

And it was here that her pervious experience as a Superleague player for Team Bath and later a coach collided.

Vann said: "I've gone from having to command 50 soldiers in front of me to needing to spread myself across a far wider scale.

"As an instructor at basic training, they were 16-21-year-olds arriving for their first day in the army and I was there to help them become soldiers - and that is entirely relevant as a netball coach, especially to younger players.

"It's important to consider the wider aspect of people's lives, their families and challenges in their life outside work."

Vann will work alongside Anna Stembridge to coach the senior players as well as head the youth programme.

"There's a sense of belonging in both and a heavy reliance on welfare and you also the need leadership and physical courage," added Vann.

Vann says she is "extremely grateful" to the army for allowing her to pursue a dual career after returning from maternity leave, with her role at Bath coming after a stint based at the Air Corps headquarters.

"A week for me will depend massively on what time of the year it is - but there will always be family time, coaching, [lots of] travelling, army, media work, time in the gym and outdoor time, which typically revolves around the dog," added Vann, whose husband, major Richard Vann, is also a serving officer in the 17 Port and Maritime Regiment of the Royal Logistic Corps.

"It's a real juggling act with us both serving and having two young children but our time as a family is precious so we try to make the most of it."

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