Bianca Chatfield is a member of the Australian Netball Team, Captain of the Melbourne Vixens and an Australian Almond Ambassador. Last week the Vixens were honoured as ‘A Team of the Year’ at the Women’s Health I Support Women In Sport awards. We caught up with Bianca to find out more about her and what it takes to be a top-level athlete.
Bianca, tell us about your background. How old were you when you started playing netball and when did you realise you wanted to make to play netball professionally?
I started playing at 10 years old – I loved all sport not just netball. I only realised I had potential when I started being noticed by scouts and asked to try out for different teams when I was 13-14. My height obviously was a massive advantage for me (Bianca was around 6ft/183cm when she was 14 and is now 6 ft 2″/189cm). I made the Melbourne Phoenix team at 16 years old, then the Australian team at 18. I was dropped when I was 19 from Aussie. This is when I realised that it’s great to make it but you need to put in the hard work as well – potential only gets you so far.
What does it take to perform sport at your level? How many hours do you spend training and exercising each week?
Hard work, resilience and the ability to put the team first. Train everyday – 2 hours at least and plenty of time off court promoting the sport, organising the team (as captain) and making sure that I have some kind of work/life/sport balance.
How do you deal with the pressures of top-level competition? Do you have any kind of pre-game ritual?
You just create a routine that you stick to. If you have done the preparation then the pressure is easier to deal with. I don’t stress too much about things I can’t control. We all go through tough times, its how you deal with them that determines how you really are as a leader or an athlete.
What do you like to do to celebrate an important win?
Just spend time away from the court with the girls who are in the team. We spend a lot of time travelling and have a lot of fun off the court, but as soon as we are on the court we are able to switch into serious mode. So important though to make sure you can enjoy playing, laugh at yourself and keep reminding yourself why we do it all.
How important is good nutrition to you?
So important – I had glandular fever for six months about six years ago. It taught me some very important lessons about my body, making sure I fuel it with the right foods and not trying to push the boundaries. I still feel the effects of glandular/ fatigue if I over-train or haven’t spent enough time recovering or eating well. I always have to work hard at keeping my body in the condition it needs to be, but I know I only play well if I am keeping on top of this. I have learnt so much about nutrition and my body through sport that I wouldn’t have any idea about if I wasn’t an athlete.
So what are three simple changes anyone can do to their diet to improve their health?
Drink water, loads of it, all day! Eat fresh produce as much as you can, whenever you can. Always have a bag of almonds in your car as an easy, high protein snack when you’re in a hurry.
Do you follow a special diet? What would you eat on a typical day?
Yes, Just try and eat as fresh as possible and to make sure that I have several small meals throughout the day. We need to make sure we have the right amount of carbs/proteins/fats at each meal and of course don’t forget to treat yourself in moderation. We have a dietician that works with the team and they educate us and monitor our weight and skinfolds throughout the season to ensure our fat:muscle ratio is where it needs to be for peak performance.
What’s your favourite after work quick and easy after work dinner?
Usually salmon and salad. I love creating salads that have bits and pieces of everything in it. Often with almonds, feta, rocket and spinach, cherry tomotoes and sweet potato. I use quinoa a lot as it’s so easy and so good for you.
How important is a good night’s sleep for you?
Sleep is important not only to help your body recover physically, but to also allow your brain time to chill out.
What do you like to do when you’re not playing netball?
I love being outdoors and I grew up on the Mornington Peninsula so I will head down there and catch up with family and friends, be at the beach, keeping fit and having fun. I also love the cafe culture of Melbourne – catching up with friends over brunch on the weekends is a must for me.
What’s the best thing about playing netball for Australia?
The people you meet and the opportunities you get.
Thanks Bianca, and all the best for the 2013 season!