It’s often around this time of year that netball players and parents reach out for advice when their coach or someone within their club tells them they need to trial in a new position.
Usually it’s because someone views them as “too short” for circle defence or the goal circle, so they’re pushed towards the midcourt under the premise that they’ll be written off as a goaler or defender at higher levels.
There are a few problems with that.
For starters, in many cases the coach or club pushing that player into a new position has done very little in terms of developing that player in the new role throughout the year. They simply reach the end of the season and say, “You need to trial for midcourt”, which is doing the player more than a disservice.
Our overarching advice is for players to trial in the positions they’re best at, most experienced in and most comfortable with, rather than second-guessing themselves or allowing themselves to be told that they’ll never progress because they lack height or a particular trait.
For players and clubs considering or advising on positional changes in the lead-up to a trial or a new season, here are a few things we often tell them.
Trial in your ‘happy place’
Trials are about players showcasing to the selectors what they can do best.
By playing out of position, often they’ll be doing the opposite: showing the selectors what they can’t do well right now. While the player knows they lack experience in that position, the selectors often won’t, and can only judge based on what’s presented in front of them.
What else would you expect when a circle defender has never played a minute in wing defence and all of a sudden they’re asked to chase a wing attack around, defend around the circle edge, avoid going offside and try to work in partnership defensively with their teammate in centre?
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Inevitably they’ll look lost, they’ll probably be beaten consistently and will wind up being selected in a lower team than what they might have been if they’d trialled in a position they’re comfortable in.
So our advice to players is always to put down the positions where they’ve played the majority of their best netball, as trials is not the place to try something completely new.
Is height everything?
Is there really no future for a player in their chosen position because they lack height?
Defensively, a lack of height will present challenges if opponents are a foot or more taller, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that in the goal circle it doesn’t matter what you lack in height – good players will always find a way to perform in their best position (hello Georgie Horjus and Gabby Sinclair).
Short, zippy goalers often have strengths and attributes that other players don’t, so rather than writing them off, could they instead be the gamechanger that sets your team apart from other teams that have selected based on height?
Let the selectors decide
Good selectors know talent when they see it, but players need to give them the chance to see that talent.
Selectors will often view a goaler or circle defender and end up selecting them as a midcourter because they see potential for them at that position, which is fine if that selection has been discussed with the player.
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But rarely will you see a midcourter selected as a goaler, simply because it’s very hard to select a goaler without seeing them shoot (or knowing they even play there).
So rather than putting the selectors in a position where they can only guess at a player’s true strengths, players are far better to play where they can shine, allowing the selectors to see them at their best and determine where the best position might be within the club’s program.
As a club/coach, plan for transitions
Don’t get to the end of the year and send a player off into the wilderness of the next age group with an instruction that they should move into a new position.
If you think a player’s future lies in another position, it’s incumbent on you to provide them with opportunities to train and play there throughout the year.
Firstly, it will begin to help you answer the question as to whether that player really does have the ability to take on the new position, and secondly it will prepare them for that change before they’re thrown in the deep end against bigger, stronger players.