I have been coaching netball for a long time, the turning point in my coaching journey came at secondary school. I offered to help my old primary school by supporting the teacher with after-school netball. I loved improving the players, umpiring and being involved in match days. Not long after this, I got selected to play for England age groups so life got quite busy but I still tried to coach whenever I could. Mainly for some extra income but also because I loved coaching and enjoyed giving back to the local community.
Over time, as I became more experienced, I took on more responsibilities, more schools, club netball, county netball, franchise coaching and England age group coaching.
Let’s look at how to coach a netball team
Coaching netball for beginners
Here are tips for coaching netball for beginners
Keep it simple! Include a good warm-up that engages the players, fun ball skills and early gameplay.
Establish the basics. What drills can you break down to use with netball beginners? Most footwork and passing drills can be made easy / more difficult with some tweaks.
Observe other coaches, their sessions and behaviours. Whether that is netball or other sports, watching other coaches work with young athletes inspires and accelerates your coaching journey.
Have fun and go easy on yourself. Some players will pick up the basics quickly and others will take a while. Plus, sometimes as coaches we get it wrong or a session did not hit the spot you were hoping for, think it through and go again if you need to. Always question, did the players understand what I was asking them to do?
How can I improve my netball coaching?
Improving your netball coaching means accepting different roles and responsibilities at different teams, clubs and schools across various levels.
When I first started coaching, I took the warmups. Over the years this evolved to taking the full training session before becoming the assistant coach on game day. Only once I’d completed all these steps and had years of experience under my belt did I progress to being the head coach of a team.
Having a mentor is also a great place to start.
In the past, my mentors have helped me judge what I was ready for but equally challenged me to come out of my comfort zone and hit the next level.
I also wanted to become as knowledgeable as I could about the game. Umpiring qualifications followed as did continually setting a high standard for myself.
To this day I ensure my netballs are always pumped up, bibs washed, and the first aid kit is stocked up.
These standards set the tone for the session ahead, the environment I want to create, and what I expect of the players. It was a way of showing that I cared, I was professional, and that preparation is crucial. This is one of the roles and responsibilities of a netball coach.
How do you structure a netball training session?
The structure of a netball training session is important to me. I still have session plans created when I was 15 years old! Looking back, my session plans have come a long way since then but the process of planning a session and following it through is the same.
Every season I buy a new coaching book. I carry it around with me all the time to add ideas, game plans and session plans.
I start each netball training session plan by thinking about what I want to achieve in the session. This creates the blueprint to build the session.
Warm-up, prep drills, the main focus and gameplay are the general structure of my sessions.
Some examples of main focus sessions:
- Attacking options
- Defence – timing the intercept
- Decision-making on the pass
- Fitness with the ball – repeated efforts
- Session plan example
Below shows the first page of an example session plan created by Elite Netball Academy:
In preseason sessions, my netball session plans would generally look at the basics: hands and feet. For example, getting hands on the netball as much as possible in the session through various passing drills and getting players’ feet moving in a variety of ways.
These skills will roll out from the warmup and transition into gameplay at the end of the session.
Download the full Group Drills session plan below
Download Full Session Plan For – Group Drills
How to be a better netball coach
Watching other coaches, in and out of netball will help you be a better netball coach. My two favourite netball coaches to watch are Tracey Neville and Dame Noeline Taurua. Two World Class netball coaches. Tracey won the Commonwealth Games for the first time in English history and Noeline won the World Cup with New Zealand.
What makes Tracey Neville a good coach?
Tracey Neville is a good coach for many reasons. Her work ethic, non-negotiables (don’t ever be late for training!) and high attention to detail are outstanding. I used to work with Tracey so have witnessed how she is a driving force and how she pushes herself to be the best by taking opportunities that are outside of her comfort zone.
What makes Dame Noeline Taurua a good netball coach?
Noeline can elevate any team she works with. This is what we all aspire to do as netball coaches. No matter the level of ability of the players, we seek to work with teams in which improvements are made from the first session. Noeline can do this at a rapid pace and at the highest level – her netball teams often peak at the right time.
How to prepare players for trials
Here at Elite Netball Academy, pre-season is all about preparing the athletes for upcoming netball trials.
Fitness is a huge element, and the sessions will provide a lot of opportunities to receive feedback for elements they can put into gameplay.
We also advise players on what positions they should trial for, familiarise them with trial structures, advise them what they need to bring and how important it is to be organised on the day. For example, knowing your matches, take a picture of your games in advance, write them down and double-check throughout the trial so you know when to be ready.
Private netball coaching
Another good way to prepare for trials is 1-2-1 sessions. 1-2-1 coaching helps players work on those small details that can make a huge difference in a trial environment or in a match. Having a coach focus on you will accelerate your development – plus 1-2-1 coaching is good fun.