NATALIE PORTER: “MY NPIRE”

NATALIE PORTER: “MY NPIRE”

Natalie Porter is a former Australian Olympian – Silver Medallist, WNBL Most Valuable Player, WNBA Draftee, Basketball Victoria Hall of Fame Inductee and Current Frankston Blues Junior Girls Coach.

Now retired from playing she runs her small business; NPIRE Travel in Seaford, Victoria offering group travel packages for school, sporting groups and general holidayers. 

Porter recently sat down for an interview about basketball and life now.

Hey Nat, thank you for your time. What age and how did basketball start for you? 

I was five and a half when I first picked up a ball.  I started with the Wattle Park Saints basketball club, based out of Nunawading Basketball stadium.  The reason I started was a neighbour had a daughter the same age that just started playing and asked if I would be interested.

After being invited to the AIS did you think you would become professional player? 

Did I ever have a ‘pro’ career haha I certainly never got paid a ‘pro’ wage.  For me the start was in Jan 1996 when I moved to the AIS. I had just turned 15.  My first WNBL club was the Dandenong Rangers in late 1996 – I was still 15. Why – well I dominated juniors and was picked for Vic Metro and the coaches liked me, so recruited me.

What archive some of your bigger basketball achievements?

Umm…Australian Olympian, WNBL Life Member, WNBL MVP, WNBL All Star Five, WNBL Defensive Player of the Year, WNBL Draftee – New York Liberty and playing for Italian Club – Parma

So you said going to the Olympics first. How was that experience?

It went so fast! One minute I was entering the Village, the next I was leaving Athens.  I was 23. I didn’t have a whole lot of perspective on life. It was a dream to go to the Olympic Games and participate.  To walk away with a medal was unbelievable and blew all expectations that I ever had. The village was busy, hot, windy, no trees, massive food hall, the internet was still new, supreme athletes, massage on call. The games were all tough battles, played in front of very small crowds (aside from the Greece game). I had a bench role, only played limited minutes, was definitely the teammate who cheered, clapped, chest-bumped, made jokes, did dining hall runs for the big stars etc but it was a whole lot of fun.

Who was your favourite former team mate? 

That is such a tough one! I have made lifelong friends with teammates, as early as rep basketball at Nunawading and all of those friends I would consider to have been my fave teammates.  My fave team however, or best team memory, would probably have to be when I first started at Dandy in the league – Lucille Bailie (nee Hamilton), Sally Phillips (nee Crowe), Regina Days, Allie Douglas, Bec Brincat, Jess Bibby, Jade Hyett…man, the list goes on – those girls, many double my age, were AWESOMELY UNREAL! They took care of me, they let me drive their cars on my L plates, they led me astray on road trips (or maybe it was the other way around), but they genuinely cared for me, like looking back, I felt love from them – they loved me like I was their own kid…that was such an amazing way to start my career!

For someone with such a decorated playing career, you retired after your 2011 season with the Sydney Flames relatively early. What lead to that decision? 

After missing the Beijing Olympic team, I was gutted! It really hurt – mentally, emotionally, physically. It changed my whole path.  Could I have tried for London, yes. Was my heart in it, no. I truly felt I should have made that Beijing team – and it sucked! So my focus changed, at the time, I didn’t know to what.  I tried Europe, didn’t enjoy it (I am a home body). I finished my Master’s and was working (I worked throughout my entire career mind you) on my new business NPIRE.  I couldn’t do both, as they clashed.  It was either 100% to basketball or 100% to business, it was a really tough choice to make, I loved and still love the game – I would have loved to have kept playing.  Would I have retired in 2011 if I had of made the Beijing team – no, probably not! I would have tried for a 3rd Olympics, maybe a 4th – but hey, sh*t happens, life goes on and it was a real ‘sliding doors’ moment for me!

And you’re now married?

Yes. I got legally married to Kirsten in 2018. One of the best moments of my life. To have our 12 year old son (at the time, he is now 14) walk us down the aisle was just beautiful, and to declare the love that Kirsten and I have for each other, in front of our 3 beautiful kids, Madelyn (18), Alex (14) and Olivia (11), family and friends was sincerely an incredible life moment.  We are a pretty unique family dynamic – blended families certainly have their challenges, but for our kids having 2 mums that also brings about other challenges, such as, who to go to first for a Mummy cuddle haha

You have been now coaching in the Frankston Blues junior program for your now forth season. When did coaching become a passion? 

I actually started coaching way back when, in the 90s and I have continued to do individual skills training since then.  Prior to the Blues, I coached the Maitland Mustangs in NSW.  One of my previous Under 2 athletes, Shakera Reilly, just won the championship with the UC Capitals – how amazing is that!.. I remember her telling me that her dream was to play WNBL and she made it! So proud!  When I moved back to Melbourne in 2013, I started coaching Carey Grammar and Wesley College first girls basketball teams – and then in 2016 I started with the Blues, when Olivia started as a double bottom ager…since then, I haven’t looked back – I have certainly built a reputation, across the club for being a tough nut, but that is definitely coupled with my softer side, of fun, love and good times – something along the lines of, work hard, play hard, party hard – which for U14 girls is being rewarded with sleepovers and lollies haha! But seriously, I want to be remembered as the coach who was tough, who demanded discipline and respect from every player, parent, coach but created an environment where everyone felt valued and grew as a player and had some fun along the way! Am I happy when we lose, No, but if my team gave their absolute best and were better than the week before and walked off that court with their heads held high – that in itself is a true win at life!

How did your business NPIRE start?

As I mentioned earlier, in 2010 I started to build my NPIRE.  That is how the name came about.  I had several different part-time/casual jobs and my accountant advised me to create a business, so NPIRE was born. Did I ever, at that time in my life, envisage that I would be operating a SMB in Seaford in 2020, no way! It was purely a means to an end at the time.  I am so glad I went with NPIRE.  Building my NPIRE. Building my future – that is what it was, what I wanted and now has so much relevance in everything we do.  Plain and simple, we build kid’s futures up through travel.

What does NPIRE offer?

We specialise in sport, leadership and educational travel experiences.  It is the absolute best – I love it! Sure being the boss comes with more challenges than most – people management, wages, unforeseen threats (ie Coronavirus), competitors, the list goes on – but to work in a close-knit, high-performing team post my basketball career is awesome – I love our team, we wouldn’t be here without them, all playing very important roles within the business, including our customers – they are a part of our bigger team, they are just as important in achieving our ultimate mission – to build futures through life changing travel experiences.

Are the current internal health issues presenting a challenge?

Yeh. The current climate surrounding the Coronavirus is certainly a massive challenge for our small business.  Working through contingencies, strategies and implementing new processes is all part of business, particularly if you can be an adaptable business with fluidity.  Whilst the future is uncertain as to the overall impact this will have on our business and the overall economy, I am sure that local communities will continue to band together (as shown during the severe bushfire season) and support one another where they can.

Do you miss playing basketball? 

Yes, I will always miss it – there is nothing in my life that has or I believe can replicate the feeling of running out on your home court to a roaring crowd, hitting that 3 to put your team up and the crowd goes wild, or losing the WNBL championship in front of 2500 hostile, screaming fans, the adrenaline from all of those moments, the blood pumping through your veins, that is what I miss! I miss the fierce battles, the banter, the love, the personalities, it will always be in me, forever, I just wish I could feel it for one more time, over and over again!

It’s been a pleasure chatting Nat!

You can contact Nat Porter and the NPIRE team by clicking HERE