Footwork might not always be the most glamorous or fun part of a netball training.
In fact, tell your players you’re kicking off a training session with half an hour of footwork drills and some will probably be eyeing off the nearest exit.
But outside of basic skill work, footwork is arguably the most important component of any netball training program.
Think about it: clean, sharp footwork is critical for almost everything you do on the netball court.
Goal keeper getting their feet around a holding shooter? Good luck doing it without quick, nimble footwork. Multiple workloads or movements for a wing attack on a centre pass in order to get free and find space? Impossible without good footwork. Goaler working a quick re-feed, or moving quickly to stop a defender from taking front position? Footwork!
We almost always dedicate at least 30 minutes of our training sessions to improving players’ footwork, as it has so many flow-on effects for the rest of their game.
With that in mind, here are three basic footwork elements you should look out for when building up your team’s footwork, as well as some of our drills to help you achieve them.
LIFTING THE INSIDE LEG
Trust us: once we tell you about this, you won’t be able to stop noticing it when players aren’t doing it!
When players make a dynamic change of direction on their outside leg during a cone drill or ball drill, they should lift their inside leg so that their knee is in line with where they’re going to drive next (see below).
Many juniors (and older players, for that matter) do what we sometimes call “ski turns”, in that they’ll plant both feet on the ground next to each other as they go to change direction. What it means is that they effectively have to make an extra movement to then lift their non-driving foot off the ground, which slows down their change of direction.
Encourage your players to push off on one foot, and lift their inside leg. Demonstrate it for them if they don’t understand, as many players simply don’t realise that they’re not completing the movement correctly.
RECOMMENDED DRILL: FOOTWORK CONE COURSE 1
This one almost goes without saying, but having light, reactive feet is critically important for all netballers.
Not every player is blessed with explosive power off the mark, but all players can improve their ability to react, by working on having light footwork, leaning forward slightly when moving and accelerating, and staying up on the balls of their feet.
Ladder drills are a great way to work on those light feet – some players are so good that you’ll barely hear their feet hitting the court, while others are more heavy-footed and should be encouraged to focus on having the quickest possible contact with the floor each time their foot lands.
RECOMMENDED DRILL: BASIC LADDER DRILLS
When driving between cones in a drill requiring short, sharp drives, watch how some players tend to ’round out’ their movements. That is, when they change direction there’s often a little curve to their movement as they take off in a new direction.
This means they’re running further, the drive will take longer and they may not get rid of their opponent when it comes time to put it into a competitive scenario.
Encourage your players to keep their movements in nice straight lines from cone to cone, particularly when they push off to drive back in the opposite direction, as that’s when most of the extra ‘curvey’ movement tends to happen.