Having been thrust into the world of sports leadership back in 2017, Murrumbateman Tennis Club President Natasha Amerasinghe found herself on a “very steep learning curve”.
Her first few years of presidency focused on learning the ropes and staying afloat, but as time passed, she saw the potential for so much more.
She just wasn’t sure how to get there or if she could pull it off.
“It might seem like such a trivial thing, but I wanted to introduce regular competitions for the Murrumbateman Club,” she said.
“It wasn’t really trivial for me.”
Like many people in sports leadership, particularly in smaller towns or more remote regions, Natasha’s presidency was voluntary. She was also a mum and a full-time worker, so the capacity to juggle all the moving parts required to maintain regular competition seemed unrealistic.
That’s until she attended Tennis Australia’s Women Leaders in Tennis program.
Over four months, Natasha joined other women in sports leadership in the program, which aimed to create leadership opportunities for over 18s and help build their knowledge, skills and confidence.
The course kicks off with a face-to-face introductory session followed by a series of monthly online’ power sessions’, with modules and tasks to complete in between.
Participants formed a sort of brains trust to debrief on tasks, brainstorm solutions and troubleshoot.
According to Natasha, it revealed her blind spots.
“The program has elements of self-reflection and I realised that I have a tendency to over-commit,” she said.
“I’m a mum of two, I work full time and I’m a president of a volunteer-run tennis club that I am passionate about in a community I love. I want to do it all at once, but I’ve discovered if you’re going to juggle, you might drop the proverbial tennis ball.
“I learned about being kind to myself and understanding myself and how I operate.”
During an ‘action learning project’, Natasha was taught to apply some specific design thinking processes to how she could solve her problem.
“Rather than trying to ‘do it all’, it gave me useful tools to put in play when I am engaging with a committee of volunteers who are time poor, and how to get things moving in that environment,” she said.
“It was invaluable to get input from a network of other women in the same space who’ve gone through that process and to get their ideas, brainstorm and discuss.”
Murrumbateman Tennis Club ran regular competitions on Tuesday nights over the summer and Natasha has a grand vision for attracting players from Canberra for inter-regional competition.
Former pro-Australian netballer Caitlin Bassett, who will be the keynote speaker at the ACT Women in Sport and Leadership Brunch to launch this year’s program, said this kind of outcome was empowering for women in leadership positions.
“A lot of us have Imposter Syndrome,” she said.
“We tend to look at a job and say, ‘I can do nine out of 10 of those things, but because I can’t nail all 10, it’s not for me’. So we pass up opportunities.
“It’s so powerful and important to have women in sports leadership. Sometimes it can be daunting, but it’s also very worth it. But you have to tell yourself, ‘I’m good enough; I am worthy’. Take every opportunity and give it a red hot crack.”
Having retired from a successful career that included playing for Giants Netball and the Australia national netball team, Caitlin is now a player development manager at Cricket NSW.
“No matter what sport you play, there are so many lessons elite sports can teach you that can take you through life,” she said.
“And no matter where you come from, you can learn from one another.”
She said she struggled with the various barriers facing women in sports during her career, such as the frustration with remuneration gaps. But things are looking up.
“There’s so much opportunity in this space for women in this day and age,” she said.
“All the best sports are looking at ways to retain their female players and bring them into the fold to share their experiences with the next generation.
“Women make excellent leaders, and some of the challenges we’ve come up against prime us for leadership roles … But we’ve got to back ourselves.”
The ACT Women in Sport & Leadership Brunch takes place on Friday, 24 March, from 9 am to 10:30 am at the Canberra Tennis Centre, 1 Riggall Place, Lyneham. The cost is $59.54; book here.