Olympian Jinadasa targets mental fitness of Sri Lanka netball team at third coming | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Olympian Jinadasa targets mental fitness of Sri Lanka netball team at third coming

5 February, 2023
Thilaka Jinadasa is serious about her job as national netball coach. Here she is pictured during the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool, England
Thilaka Jinadasa is serious about her job as national netball coach. Here she is pictured during the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool, England

Newly appointed national netball coach Thilaka Jinadasa aims to focus on improving the mental fitness of players and provide international competition to prepare the Sri Lanka team for the forthcoming World Cup.

“The national team playing in Sri Lanka and playing games here for the World Cup will not be enough. To be competitive we must play more matches against teams from Europe and Africa,” said Jinadasa who was coach when Sri Lanka emerged Asian champions in 2009 and 2018.

She is realistic about Sri Lanka’s goals at the Netball World Cup to be held from July 28 to August 6 in Cape Town, South Africa.

“If we look at our performance in the World Cup, we have always finished in either 15th or 16th place in history. My target is to get a ranking between 10 and 14 in the tournament. It has to be an achievable goal we have to target. If we go beyond that it’s going to be a bonus,” said Jinadasa of Sri Lanka’s chances in the 16-team competition.

Sri Lanka have been drawn in group C with Jamaica, South Africa and Wales, countries ranked four, five and nine respectively.

“I’m not going to put much pressure (on players) in the first round because South Africa and Jamaica are going to be a huge battle for Sri Lanka. It’s going to be a very physical game with them. Wales can give a good fight. There’s no point focusing on the first round. It’s very tough. I want to focus more on the second round so that we have a better position in the rankings. Otherwise, we will end up either 15 or 16. We need to have a different strategy and planning,” said Jinadasa who is pragmatic about her task with the World Cup just a few months away.

“It’s a very challenging program. Players haven’t done any serious training from September till now. They have done their training for the upcoming Nationals but I am not sure whether they have maintained that intensity level like when they are in the national pool,” she said.

“The first step will be the medical test. I need to know whoever is selected is medically fit. After that we will be having a trial on February 9 at the Sugathadasa Stadium. On that day we are planning to have 18 players because there is no point in getting a lot of players because I need to get the cream and sharpen them from there onwards,” said Jinadasa who has been coach of Maldives and Brunei as well.

“At international level it’s not just about training. We need to play matches. We need to improve their strength, stamina and all but training time they need to do a more competitive environment like activity,” said Jinadasa who has proposed to the Netball Federation of Sri Lanka to have a tournament involving foreign teams in April.

“Hopefully we can invite teams to come here. They don’t have to be very competitive. It is getting prepared and seeing how they are preparing for the World championship,” said Jinadasa. Among her proposals when interviewed for the job was to get some international exposure in the European circuit or touring an African country before the World Cup.

“We have a European and African team in our group. With Wales we have a better chance to give a good fight and even win. We have beaten Wales in the past. It is good if we get this European circuit game. Then we can adapt to their playing style,” she said.

After the final squad of 15 including three stand-byes are selected in May, her focus is on playing competitive games. “About two weeks before the World Cup, I’m planning to take the squad to Botswana or Malawi,” she said.

“I am a person who believes in mental fitness. Some people call it motivation. People think you get a booster when they come, talk and go. For mental fitness you need to develop mental skill,” said Jinadasa who obtained the services of Nalaka Hewamadduma who mentors corporates as well as sports people on resilience, compatibility and well-being.

“He used to help me with a lot of mental information about players. They will be given some homework to do to improve their mental fitness as part of their mental skill development. I already invited him to support us. He is positive about that. He will hopefully be joining after the national selections,” she said.

“We have to start progressively towards the World Cup. How to improve our mentality. That is the big challenge especially in crucial competitions like the World Cup. Physical fitness is necessary but mental fitness is even more important because you have to be mentally strong,” said Jinadasa, Sri Lanka’s first female Olympian at the 1988 Seoul Games.

The bespectacled Jinadasa who is a strict disciplinarian wants Sri Lanka to move away from being overly dependent on giant shooter Tharjani Sivalingam. The Australia-based player who is now 44 years old and was a key player when Sri Lanka emerged Asian champions last year, is expected to join the team for the World Cup.

“It is difficult to find a player of her caliber. She is a giant seven-footer. We have six footers in the side.

In the World Cup you need to have movable shooters. If they know that you are playing stationary, the defenders are very aggressive. If I have a moving shooter, it will be an advantage they are able to move around,” she said.

“That’s the lesson I learnt in 2019. Having a stationary like Tharjini who is exceptionally good is an advantage. No doubt about it but at the same time, if we can get it with a movable tall shooter, it will be even better,” said Jinadasa who believes all seven positions in netball are equally important.

Under her guidance, Sri Lanka won the Asian Netball Championship title twice in 2009 and 2018 and qualified on both occasions to compete at the World Cup in 2011 and 2019.

“I am a really passionate coach. I really want to do something good for netball honestly,” said Jinadasa who is in her third stint as national coach.