Edinburgh netball star Gemma Sole is hoping to rubber-stamp her place in Scotland’s team for Glasgow 2014 at this weekend’s World Cup qualifiers in Cardiff.
Scotland need to finish in the top two to clinch a place in the finals and Sole, daughter of Scotland Grand Slam rugby captain David, knows that some top performances will help book her place in the Commonwealth Games’ team.
The team is due to be announced next month but, under Kiwi coach Gail Parata, the players have set their sights no further than Cardiff and the task in hand.
Sole, a 23 year-old goal shooter, is now working full-time on her game after giving up her job with Sainsbury’s Bank in the Capital to put all her efforts into her sport.
Since Parata took over, the Scottish Thistles, ranked 12th in the world, have beaten Wales who are eighth and will face again this weekend, and also whitewashed Trinidad & Tobago in a three-match Test Series in Glasgow.
There was also a heavy defeat to world No.1 side New Zealand in Glasgow but the Scots ran them closer in the second game.
“They were really encouraging and really supportive to us so we had some great feedback. They commented about our improvement so we have to take that feedback and really apply it,” Sole explains.
“We’ve been applying it in our training and we saw the results in the Trinidad & Tobago series. We’re a much more confident team than we were 18 months ago and that has had a big effect on team morale and team training.
“Initially when Gail game in, it was a case of improving our fitness so she would have decent levels of fitness to work with and then she could work on the more tactical aspects of the game. In the beginning, it was about getting our base levels up.”
Playing at the Games would fulfil a dream for Sole, who has been playing since primary school.
“I first started playing when I was eight – I started very young but wasn’t always the main sport at my school (Cargilfield School),” she recalls.
“My main sport was hockey at secondary school (Glenalmond College, Perthshire) but my passion was always netball and as soon as I left, I joined a netball club in Edinburgh and when I was at the University in Bath, that’s when my netball took off.”
There have been plenty of words of encouragement from her dad, who has been on hand to offer any advice about top-level sport.
“What he has done is given me a lot of support in terms of getting my head focused. It’s really important as a goal shooter to have my head in the game and be focused on my shots and on scoring goals,” she stresses.
“Being able to maintain a relaxed and composed mentality is important for my position. I follow a routine before a game – I like to feel nice and relaxed and don’t want anything too energetic. So I try and keep relaxed and ease myself into it gently.”