The start of the netball year is always one of the most challenging times for coaches.
Chances are your players won’t know each other, they won’t have touched a ball for the better part of two months over the Christmas break, and in many cases you’ll have only one training session before your first game.
Where to start, then?
A basic (90-minute) session structure will help, in order to get your players working together and to give them some tangible and achievable goals to take into their first game.
While it’s tempting to try to cram as many drills as possible into that first session, you’ll usually be better served by targeting a few key areas, to avoid information overload.
Here’s a helpful guide to how to allocate time during your first netball training session of the year.
Don’t forget, you can plan all of your training sessions using your session planner!
WARM-UP: 15 MINS
A warm-up is a critical part of any netball session. Netball is a high impact sport on young players’ bodies, so players need to activate and prepare the muscles they’ll be using.
A short jog (around 6-8 lengths of a court) followed by a few minutes of active stretching (lunges, sumo squats, Supermans etc) is a good place to start.
It’s important to then incorporate at least five minutes of KNEE ACTIVATION EXERCISES, which focus on balancing and safe landing and are aimed at preventing serious knee and ankle injuries.
Then move into faster and more dynamic movements: high knees, bum flicks, fast feet, changes of direction, high hops and sprints etc.
FITNESS: 10 MINS
At this time of year, and with players coming off a long break, it’s important that you start building your players’ fitness to set them up for the rest of the year.
While you don’t want to use up half of your 90-minute session on fitness alone, it should be a part of your first training session, as well as your training sessions in subsequent weeks.
GAUGE THEIR SKILLS: 10 MINS
Unless you know all of your players from previous seasons, you’ll want to get an idea of where each player’s basic skills are at.
Spend 10 minutes with players completing basic skills in pairs. Assess their techniques for SHOULDER, CHEST, BOUNCE and OVERHEAD passes, and make corrections if need be. Encourage the players to persist with those changes throughout the session, as they may feel strange and uncomfortable at first.
It’s also important that you make a mental note or write down areas for improvement for each player, which you can revisit throughout the season to gauge their progress and identify ongoing areas for them to focus on.
TEAM DRILL: 5 MINS
Choose any team ball drill that promotes quick, accurate passing and a variety of movement.
For younger players, a simple drill like FOUR CORNERS is a good starting point, while for older or more advanced players, drills like OVER AND OUT or a quick game of BALL TAG are a good place to start.
Also encourage players to learn each other’s names and call them out to begin to open up that communication.
ONE-ON-ONE DEFENCE: 20 MINS
Defending an opponent in a tight one-on-one should be the foundation on which a player’s defensive skills are built, and it’s critical to get the basics right early on.
Start simple – without balls – and work on players’ footwork and body angles to begin to develop an awareness of how they can restrict their opponent’s space. As players progress, encourage a little bit of physicality, using their body to block their opponent.
STRUCTURES: 20 MINS
It’s a great idea to introduce a couple of structures for centre passes and defensive throw-ins, so your team will have a basic understanding ready to roll for their first game.
Again, avoid overloading them with too much information – one centre pass set play and one defensive throw-in will suffice for the first session.
You may like to start with a CENTRE PASS SPLIT, as it’s the easiest for the players to setup, and start with a SHORT-LONG DEFENSIVE THROW-IN, as that will often be your default setup throughout the season.
MATCHPLAY: 10 MINS
Finish your session with some half-court matchplay, to allow your players to practice and develop the skills they’ve learned in a game situation, and start to develop some on-court chemistry together.
Allocate five minutes for the attacking players to possess the ball with centre passes, and five minutes for the defenders to possess the ball with defensive throw-ins, as well as a good transition drill like QUICK REACTION INTO TRANSITION, to practice transitioning the ball from different positions/situations.
Encourage your players to have a go at setting up the structures you’ve practiced, and focus in particular on their one-on-one defence – sticking tight on their opponent and denying them the best spaces to drive into.
WARM DOWN: 5-10 MINS
Never forget to warm down properly and stretch!
After your players grab a drink, ask them to go for a quick jog, a slow skip and a walk, and then have a stretch while you go over the key points from the session. Ensure you reiterate those points before the first game and evaluate them again with the players in your post-game chat.
Good luck for your first session!