When you sit down and watch the Panthers train you see many things. Training is not about being better than the person next to you, that's not what sports is about. Many would argue to the contrary but sport is about competing with yourself. Its finding that extra ounce of energy to push yourself when every muscle is screaming. Its the ability to cut that second off your personal best when the final lot of sprints stand before you at the end of the night.
If you take time to talk to the girls they all have different reasons for being here. For some Netball is everything, they cant imagine life without it and being a Panther is a natural progression of that love. Others they have a dream to play on the biggest stage and this is just a stepping stone to that next arena. Some are young others older, some are not sure what they want out of life and have been carried by talent and a drive to compete in all aspects of their life. They are humble and suffer from no illusions about the prospects of ever reaching that next big game. Even with all your hard work and energy sometimes life and fate do not pan out the way you planned. So I dug deeper and asked if you take away all the potential of the future why do you play for the Panthers.
Although there were many variations the message was the same, for the moment. That moment in taking the court and the freedom it gives you. As one player put it "When I am on court its my time, I am part of something bigger". For many of us sport played some role in our childhood and the moments spent as part of a team can be very powerful especially when that team has a heart. The Panthers have a heart you can see it when they greet each other at training and before each match in the way they embrace each other. Its a focused bond some teams develop, its a sense of common purpose and genuine care for their team mates. Some sports have lost this bond, money has supplanted any real pride and the club is a vehicle to the next big payday. When you train multiple days a week go to school or work and have to fund raise and pay your way to play there are no pretenders.
In talking to our athletes each one wanted you to know you are part of the reason too. Everyone of them could hear your cheers on the court last game. To a player they said they could hear the chants and cheers and that lifted them. As one player put it "I could hear them cheering and at that moment I felt like everyone was behind us". What you bring as a fan to our players is a sense of pride and community and that's a gift that can make all the difference.
I guess we may never truly know what motivates our players. Netball has always enjoyed a sisterhood, something that is not tangible and hard to define. Why do some risk everything they have in relocating and pursuing a dream I am not sure. I would like to think it says something about our region and our colours. That on the Downs we still believe in hard work and dedication leads to something. That living outside a metropolitan capital does not come at the price of your dreams. What the Panthers is you get to decide, but we know one thing we could not do it without you.