Silver Ferns mindful of challenges ahead

Talk of an Australian Diamonds backlash after dropping test one of the Constellation Cup will test the Silver Ferns mental skills fitness as much as their physical and athletic capabilities.

The Ferns repelled a late challenge to open their cup campaign with a win last week which drew smiles from more than just coach Waimarama Taumaunu.

Dr Kylie Wilson, who has been working with the Silver Ferns as their mental skills coach, was pleased to see the side perform under immense pressure in the fourth quarter of the first test when Australia came within two - the Ferns going on to win the opening encounter 54-52 in Melbourne.

But Dr Wilson, who is a former Welsh rugby captain, said the Ferns would be mindful of the challenges ahead against an Australian side keen to turn the tables on their trans-Tasman rivals.

"There’s always room for growth and the players will be aiming to back up that performance in the remainder of the (Constellation Cup) series," she said.

She has been working with individual players and as a team to help them work on their performance when the "pressure comes on".

Dr Wilson is also looking further ahead and wants to see how the wider squad performs when the New World Quad Series starts in October.

"There are opportunities for the squad, and those who have not had a lot of court time, and the challenges of being exposed to the pressure in the Quad Series."

Dr Wilson, who was born in Rotorua, has been working with the Ferns since the start of the year and has also had time with the national under-21 squad.

She believes mental skills in sport is an area which is being tapped into by more and more sports, as it can "be the difference" between teams and athletes who show similar physical and athletic capabilities.

"This side of the sport continues to grow although it has been around quite a while, 15 or 20 years, but I think it’s more accepted now as a part of sport performance," she said. "When you get similarities with teams and their athletic capabilities and they meet so often now in professional and semi-professional sport, the difference might be the mental skills when it counts."

Dr Wilson studied sport psychology in the United Kingdom and found the perfect marriage for her studies and love of sport with a role as a mental skills coach. She worked with British Gymnastics Association for three Olympic cycles and worked with other sports including rugby, netball and soccer.

She headed home in 2010 to take up a position as mental skills coach for High Performance Sport New Zealand. Dr Wilson has played rugby at an international level and coach national level rugby.

The Silver Ferns meet Australia in test two of the Constellation Cup in Auckland tonight before heading to Christchurch for the third and final test on Sunday. The Quad Series, which includes the Ferns, Australia, England and South Africa, starts on October 14.