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MAKING TRIALS ‘PLAYERS ONLY’: YES OR NO?

Netball selections trials coaching

The idea of making netball trials “players only” had never occurred to me until I was asked to assist with selections for a local representative club last year.

I walked in and the first thing that struck me was, “Where are all the parents?!”.

One of the committee members quickly informed me that as part of their selection procedures, only players were admitted to the courts while trials were being conducted.

What a revelation!

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Having selected for many years, it’s my experience that the issues that almost inevitably arise out of trials and selections rarely come from the players participating, but from the person who drove them there.

If you’ve coached or selected for long enough, you’ve no doubt been subjected to any/all of the following accusations after a trial, either in-person or via email or a phone call afterwards.

  • “My kid only got on twice. That kid got on four times.”
  • “My child was only on with weak players.”
  • “My daughter only got to play her favourite position once.”
  • “The selectors are biased towards the kids they know.”
  • “My child plays with that kid on Saturday and is far stronger.”

I kid you not, I’ve had parents sitting in the stands and recording statistics not just for their own child, but for other players as well, and then confronting the selectors with this information when their child isn’t picked, or is selected in a lower team.

Just a couple of weeks ago after an under-age trial, I was forwarded an email from a disgruntled parent, demanding their child be put through to the next round because we hadn’t seen their best netball, they’d only been on court twice, and they’d “heard” we were favouring players from a particular club.

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Here’s a quick tip: selectors aren’t going to reverse their decisions when a parent goes rogue and takes a shot at everything and everyone. In fact, the parent’s behaviour probably guarantees that the child will never be selected for that club in subsequent years. Who’s going to want to deal with that parent for a full 12 months?

Ask for feedback and what a player can improve on for next year? Absolutely.

Criticise the selectors and demand justice? No.

Back to those original parent-free trials …. what was brilliant was that the players seemed so much more relaxed without all the extra people there watching around the court. They actually talked to players they’d never met before and got to know them a little bit, they had room to breathe, and they were better able to focus.

It also made it far easier on the selectors to get everyone’s attention when calling out names for each round, as well as finding players to replace someone on court when required.

There are always circumstances that would require some leniency, of course. Some younger players might not feel confident to stay on their own, for example.

And it’s important to engage the parents before or after the trial, so explain what the selection process will be, as well as introduce new parents to the coaching staff and tell them a little bit about the club.

But from our experience, making trials “players only” removes plenty of headaches from what is already a challenging and often stressful time.

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