by Heath Brown
If you’ve been around netball long enough, you’ve no doubt heard (or said) that old chestnut, “let’s play OUR game”.
Usually accompanying a particularly poor quarter, it’s something of a catch-all for addressing (but not really addressing) problems that have materialised on court in that quarter or half.
But in the modern game, it’s been usurped by another coaching saying that’s become so overused it has lost almost all meaning.
And that’s playing your “brand” of netball.
Every time I hear a coach talk about their team’s “brand”, I die a little on the inside for our players.
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If you’re looking for a new drinking game, pour a shot every time you hear an elite coach use that word. You’ll be tipsy pretty quickly watching certain Super Netball teams!
A “brand” is about as high-level as you can get in any entity, whether that be a team, an association, a body or even a company. It encompasses culture, philosophy, fan engagement, player behaviours, team skills and strategies, all of which have interlinked characteristics that combine to create a “brand”.
I recall seeing a coach with players in a room during a pre-match, and they filled a whiteboard with several instructions that they called “our brand”. In fact I remember doing this myself before I realised I was guilty as charged as a perpetrator of this overused but under-explained buzzword.
What you’ll normally find as you look at the dazed audience of players when discussing a brand is a mix of overwhelmed, confused or checked-out athletes who just want to play the game without a 100-page manual on how to do so!
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So today my main advice is to leave the brand-talk to ‘Karen from marketing’ who loves speaking a lot, but not saying much.
The key to not falling into this buzzword movement is to keep it simple but with substance, and actually break it down.
Critically, if you’re going to go down the “brand” track, actually identify what what you mean when you say it. Is it a structure we want to employ on court? Is it a level of intensity or pace we like to play the game at? Is it behavioural or a way we communicate on and off court? Pick the part of the brand you want to hone in on and then address that component of the brand.
My last tip: Avoid buzzwords squared.
What does this mean? When someone asks what your brand is before you step on court, don’t answer it with standard fare like “fierce, united, relentless”. Add some context after each component. For example: “We are fierce at the contest in the air and rip that ball in. We are relentless in tagging our individual player out of the contest”.
Heath Brown is a former Australian Men’s team captain and elite level coach in both Victoria and New South Wales, who now specialises in corporate innovation and leadership.