As netball coaches, I think we’d all agree that getting our players to keep up their concentration and consistency across a game is one of the biggest week-to-week challenges we face.
How often do you find your team up by 10 goals at half-time, only to watch them score two goals in the third or fourth quarter and end up going down by five?
It happens all the time.
One of the hardest things to do, of course, is to replicate the intensity of a game at any other time other than match day itself. Often the problem is that at training, players rarely work for more than a few minutes at a time before resting or receiving feedback, which simply doesn’t happen in a game.
So here’s a training strategy we often use when our teams are struggling to maintain their effort and consistency across four quarters.
BREAK IT UP
Essentially you’re going to break your training session up into four “quarters”, in order to replicate the same periods of work and concentration that your players will need to apply in a game.
Each quarter will have a different focus – the first quarter might be footwork and/or fitness, the second might be a team drill, the third might be a skill drill and the fourth could be matchplay, transitioning the ball up and down the court, or match scenarios.
Or you can mix and match other focus areas, or double up on one area and run two quarters of the same activity, if you wish.
You may also choose to do two separate footwork or team drills in the one quarter, so players aren’t doing the same thing the entire time.
KEEP THE TIME PERIODS THE SAME
If the length of your quarters on match day is 10 minutes, that’s how long your team should complete each of the “quarters” at training for. If your matches have 15-minute quarters, your blocks at training should also be close to 15 minutes.
Similarly, keep the downtime or rest periods between quarters close to what the players receive on game day – around two to three minutes between.
This might mean you take time at the start of the session to setup all the “quarters” with your players and explain what they’ll be doing in each, so that they can more easily transition once you get started, without needing to stop and set things up each time.
WORK FOR THE ENTIRE QUARTER
The key here is that the players should work largely uninterrupted for the full duration of the “quarter”.
Yes, you can pause them for a few moments to provide feedback if they need to alter something about their technique or should be performing a movement in a different way, but
If they’re working in pairs, one player will be often be resting while the other is working, so keep the work/rest periods short so there’s constant change and each player needs to remain switched on.
GIVE THEM TARGETS
Remember, the aim with these sessions is to encourage your players to continue to concentrate as they tire, both physically and mentally.
So give them targets or focus points for them to aim at or beat in each activity. In the team drill, the challenge might be to see if they can complete 50 passes as a team without a passing error, or to beat their highest score.
In matchplay, it might be to convert three centre passes in a row at least once.
ADD AN EXTRA QUARTER
Want to really test your players? Throw in an extra round at the end.
Often we won’t tell the players that it’s coming – once they think the last quarter is done, we tell them there’s a bonus round.
They then have to refocus and return to the court and push through the additional period while trying to maintain the same quality and consistency they’ve worked towards in the first four quarters.
Check out the session below as as example of how you might structure yours.
1ST QUARTER: FOOTWORK – ODD CONE OUT
2ND QUARTER: TEAM DRILL – ALONG THE SIDE, UP THE MIDDLE
3RD QUARTER: LONG COURT – TRANSITION TRAMLINES
4TH QUARTER: MATCHPLAY – QUICK REACTION INTO TRANSITION
BONUS ROUND: SPLIT AND PICK