netball coach

What Makes a Successful Netball Coach?

Alice Smith has been with Elite Netball Academy as a netball coach from the very start. Alice combines working for us with her role as Head of Netball at Bradford Grammar School and is also Head Coach for Leeds Rhinos U15s competition squad. We speak to Alice to find out what makes a successful netball coach, how her netball coaching journey started and finally we get some coaching tips for netball!

When did you first meet Anna? 

My first encounter with Anna Carter was during a Yorkshire Jets U17 trial. I was playing for Huddersfield Giants U16s at the time and after being successful at the Yorkshire Jets trial, made the decision to try for Leeds Athletic at Senior Level. Through the weekly netball coaching, I got to know Anna and the rest is history.

How do you get into netball coaching?

There are many different routes into netball coaching. My journey first started when I ruptured my ACL in my first year of university and went from training twice a day to feeling lost. I was helping to coach athletics at my old school in the summer and was approached by someone who asked if I’d be interested in doing some netball coaching for the school. I was also given the opportunity to help coach at Leeds Athletic Netball Club and then at Elite Netball Academy. During my injury, I always sat on the bench at university matches, which gave me the chance to listen to coaching and feedback in games too. My netball coaching journey grew from there and I haven’t looked back since. 

netball coach
Alice and her Leeds Athletic Netball Club teammates

What do you feel makes a successful netball coach?

A successful netball coach needs a solid understanding and passion for the game, there are also three areas that I believe help turn good coaches into great netball coaches.

  1. Care. I feel you need to care about the level of the content you’re delivering whether it be a 30-minute fitness session or a 90-minute technical. And more importantly, you need to care for each athlete and genuinely want to guide them to their potential. 
  2. Responsibility and reflection. People make mistakes all the time regardless of the level or experience they have. Coaches need to reflect and accept when they made poor coaching choices and aim to better them going forward just as we would expect our athletes to reflect on performance in training and games. It’s a team effort and there needs to be mutual respect between coaches and players.
  3. Willingness to learn and progress. The game is developing quickly and I think it’s important that coaches don’t get stuck in old habits and are constantly striving to widen their knowledge and stay up to do date with tactical developments. Thinking up fresh set plays in netball is one way I like to keep learning and attending lots of netball workshops helps keep my knowledge up to date.

What does a coach do in netball?

A netball coach goes beyond the game in my opinion. Every week, young athletes are giving hours upon hours of their time to reach the next level and be the best player they can be. As a netball coach, we need to make sure that what we’re delivering and the training expectation we’re setting, is worth their time. The expectations need to be perfectly balanced between being achievable for the athlete and pushing their boundaries. This is something that a netball coach will learn over time as they get more involved in the sport and get to know the athletes they’re working.

A netball coach is also a mentor. These athletes often spend more time with their teammates and coaches than they do with their own friends and family. We play such a huge role in their netball development and their life in general. I think it’s important that netball coaches confidently offer help and advice to athletes to make them mentally and physically well-rounded, healthy athletes. It’s equally important for the athlete to know that the netball court and their coach are safe places to be. 

Netball coaching for juniors – why do you like this in particular?

Elite Netball Academy has a great set-up for coaching juniors and working with junior netballers is fab. They are so keen to learn and to listen to what you have to offer. Improvements are very evident in juniors, even weekly. It’s a really rewarding and fun age group to coach. 

What’s your favourite netball coaching drill?

Anything defence, mainly interception work. I particularly enjoy coaching players to come off their players and look to take the ball elsewhere. I also like challenging players to take risks and be confident – watching them overcome frustration with small wins.

netball coach
Alice with ENA athlete Izzy, who is part of the Manchester Thunder Academy – read Izzy’s story here.

Which English netball coach do you look up to?

Tamsin Greenway. I’ve never had her coach me, but she delivers some very inventive and modern drills. I often try to take ideas from her social media pages and really like the analysis she does on Sky Sports Netball.

What would you say to someone looking at getting into netball coaching?

If your heart is in the right place and you’re doing it for the right reasons – do it. It’s a commitment and  most of the time you are quite literally shaping a life but the rewards almost definitely outweigh the set backs and there’s nothing more rewarding than knowing that your influence has had a positive impact on an athletes journey.

Enjoyed this content on how to become a netball coach and want to progress your netball coaching journey?

Elite Netball Academy can help!

Our Coach and Teacher support programme invests in coaches who are serious about their journey and personal development and who are driven to make their coaching environments the best they can be – click here to find out more.

Get exclusive access to set plays in netball, training drills and netball coach resources created by our founder and former Superleague head coach Anna Carter. Access the coach training videos here.

Our Netball Mentoring and Advisory Service supports organisations and clubs on how to structure their netball, with our experience, vision and content we can help you develop your school or club netball. For more information, head this way.

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