Netball Coaching: Basic Training Drills

In order to maximize the potential of your netball team, practicing often and well are critical. The following is a list of drills your players can perform that will help them improve their skills and prepare them for game situations.

Before your netball team begins any sort of practice drills, the players should warm up with about 10 minutes of stretching exercises. Stretching will prevent muscle pulls and strains. When they have commenced stretching, the players can also engage in some light warm up activities. Five to ten minutes of light sprints up and down the floor are all that's necessary.

(Note: coaches may want to intersperse stretching between cardio sprints as some experts believe combining the two exercises is more effective preparation.)

After 10 minutes, divide players into pairs and have them work on handling the ball as they sprint. Work on ball handling for five minutes. At the end of the warm-up session, have the players rest for another five to ten minutes and then move to practice drills.

In the sport of netball, there are six basic areas your players will want to focus upon in order to improve their skills. These areas include: catching, passing, footwork, shooting, attacking, and defending. The first set of drills will focus on catching. These drills will concentrate on both the two-handed and one-handed catches. Remember to tell your players to watch the ball all the way into their hands, and to try and catch the ball with their fingers.

Drill One: Stand about one step away from a wall, facing it with a ball in one hand. Bat the ball rapidly against the wall at about shoulder length, using just the player's fingertips. The player should bat the ball quickly enough to where the ball bounces right back into his hand. Try to perform 10 consecutive taps with each hand.

Drill Two: Divide players into pairs. Players should face each other and stand about two meters apart. Both players need balls, and they should stand with feet shoulder-length apart with knees slightly bent. One player should make a high pass while the other makes a straight pass. Catching and releasing passes immediately are imperative for this drill to work quickly and successfully. Complete 20-25 passes.

Drill Three: Keep the players in pairs. This time, have both players stand facing a wall, standing about a half a meter apart and four steps away from the wall. One player throws the ball against the wall so that it bounces straight back to him. The other player should try to intercept the ball using both hands. The thrower should also try and beat the second player to the ball. Both players must keep their feet on the ground. Try this drill five times.

The second set of drills focuses on passing. Like catching, passes can be one-handed or two-handed. These drills will concentrate on the lob pass, the bounce pass and the chest pass.

Drill One: Players form a line about three to four feet from a trashcan. Players should face away from the can. The first player takes a ball, pivots quickly to his left or right, and lobs the ball towards the can. The player then sprints to grab the ball, returns to the line and then tries to hit the can with a bounce pass. Each player should attempt four passes.

Drill Two: Divide players into pairs and have them stand about four steps apart. Give one player a ball and tell the other to raise his hand high about his head. The passer should try and hit the other player's hand without the player having to move to catch it. Have the second player raise his other hand and try again. Throw five straight passes. Note: the passer should practice different types of throws, i.e. chest, lob, etc.

Drill Three: Divide players into pairs, four meters apart, and give one a ball. One player rolls the ball rapidly to the other. Once he has let go of the ball, the second player should sprint to get it. He should execute a two-handed chest pass back to the first player. Complete five series and then switch roles.

Footwork includes the actions of take-off (first two steps), running, changing direction, sidesteps and jumping. While it is simple to develop your own footwork drills, here are a couple to get started:

Drill One: Jog one length of the court. The player should mentally divide the court into thirds. In each third, the player should say "go" to himself and take three running steps. The player should be at full speed by step three. It is important to keep the player's weight down. One length of the court is enough for this drill.

Drill Two: The coach should tape three crosses on the court, five meters apart, to form a triangle. A player should stand at one cross. The coach should say "go" and the player should sprint to the second cross, change direction, and still going full speed, sprint to the third mark and perform a two-foot landing. Repeat the drill in the other direction. Travel the triangle three times.

The next set of drills involves shooting, which should be practiced every day. The more shots players take, the more the shots become second nature and hence almost automatic for the player to make. Ideally, practicing with defenders is beneficial.

Drill One: The coach or player should place five or six cones around the goal circle. The player should start in position at the cone closest to the goalpost. When he is ready, the player can begin shooting. When he has scored from the first position, he should move to the next cone and to the next until he has scored from each position.

Drill Two: This next drill is similar to the last. Have a player stand close to the goalpost. He shoots until he makes it. Step back one foot length and shoot from that spot. Continue moving backwards after made shots for anywhere from six to eight steps. The player can also vary this drill by stepping to the side as well as stepping back.

Drill Three. The third passing drill requires a defender as well as a shooter. The defender should stand in the center of the goal circle. Place a ball on the ground in front of the offensive player. The shooter should pick up the ball and take a shooting stance. The defender then puts up his hands to pressure the coming shot. The defender should allow the shooter to move a step away from him. The shooter then releases the ball and both players get in position for the rebound. The shooter should try and make three successful shots.

Attacking is another key element of a successful netball team, seeing as how successful attacks will help players get in position to score, and the following drills will help players improve their attacking skills.

Drill One: Five players should line up behind one another and a sixth player should stand about five meters in front of the first member in the line. The first attacker, or line member, should make a move. The feeder passes to him. The attacker catches the ball and pivots to his side. The player at the back of the line can now make a move. The first attacker passes to the last, and the last player catches and throws a long pass to the feeder. The first attacker then moves to the end of the line and then drill begins again. When everyone has received a pass, the feeder should get in line and one attacker should become feeder.

Drill Two: For this next drill, two feeders should stand about five meters in front of a line of four or five players. The feeders should stand a few meters apart. Give both feeders a ball. The first player in the line should make an attack move to the closest feeder and receives a pass from him. The player returns the ball to the feeder and then makes a different attack move to the other feeder. The ball needs to move rapidly between the feeders and the attackers. The first attacker should move to the end of the line and then the next attacker goes. When each attacker has gone, the feeders should join the line and two new feeders move to pass.

Drill Three: This drill requires an attacker and a feeder. The two should face the same direction, with the attacker standing about five meters behind the feeder. The feeder has a ball and throws it overhead to himself and catches it head high. As he catches, he should turn to face the attacker. As soon as the catch is made, the attacker makes a move. The feeder passes the ball, the attacker catches it and then passes it back to begin the drill again. Make three successful passes and then switch roles.

The final set of drills focuses on defending the ball. Obviously, the better the team defends, the better their chance of winning.

Drill One: Divide players into pairs. One player is the attacker and the other should act as a defender in a one-on-one situation. The coach yells "go" and the attacker moves with the defender, shadowing every move the attacker makes for three to five seconds.

Drill Two: Two feeders should stand about five meters apart and make shoulder passes to each other. Four defenders line up in between them, about five meters to one side. The first defender watches the pass, gauging its path. When the feeder makes the second pass, the defender should run at full speed to try and pick off the pass. The defender should be able to guess when the best chance to intercept will be. Repeat until all four defenders have gone.

Drill Three: Have two passers stand about 10 meters apart facing each other. One attacker and two defenders should be in the middle of them. The attacker should make a move, while one of the defenders tries to intercept the pass. The passers and attacker pass the ball between themselves until a defender intercepts, deflects, or tips the ball. Go until the defenders have made four successful attempts.

With these comprehensive drills, your team should be well prepared for competitive play. Be creative and come up with your own drills. As long as your team is practicing often and practicing well, the players will stay in shape and will be game savvy.

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