The Christmas holiday break is approaching for most netball clubs and players, with anywhere from four to eight weeks of downtime as everyone takes a well-earned rest from a hard year on the courts.
And it might be different where you’re from, but at most junior clubs I speak to, there’s often only one training session – maybe two – before the new season starts once they return from the break.
And that means that if players return from the holidays unfit, they won’t just struggle in Round 1 – it’ll be close to half a season before they regain the fitness they had at the end of the previous season.
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So if you don’t want your team to spend two months struggling to run out games, your players are going to need to keep up some sort of consistent physical activity while they’re away, and ideally complete their own sessions.
And that means holiday training programs!
Here are some tips as you start to put a program together for your players.
IS IT WORTH WRITING YOUR PLAYERS A PROGRAM?
Buy-in for off-season training programs can vary wildly between teams and age groups. Some players will follow a program religiously, while others will put the sheet of paper in their bag and won’t even look at it (or their running shoes) until the day before netball training starts again.
But I prefer to cater for the players who WILL do something, rather than not bothering because some kids won’t. And if you can get even half your team committed to some sort of fitness work during the break, that’ll make a big difference once the group is back out on court.
ANY TRAINING IS GOOD TRAINING
Even if your players aren’t following your specific training program, any physical activity they do over the holidays can only be a good thing.
A family bike ride, while probably not high-intensity, is certainly better than sitting by the pool! And chasing the dog around the park might not seem like training, but do it for 15-20 minutes and there’ll be some benefit.
Take the attitude that ‘anything is better than nothing’, and your players might find a couple of ways to squeeze in ‘sessions’ that they otherwise wouldn’t have completed.
AVOID TELLING THEM TO DO LONG DISTANCE RUNS
Put the words “long run” or “30-minute run” on a fitness program and you’ll have lost most players’ motivation before you even start. A large percentage of players just don’t like running, so giving them a heap of monotonous pavement pounding to do will likely turn them right off.
And most high performance netball programs have moved away from sending their players on long runs as part of their fitness programs anyway. Check out our chat with one of Victoria’s elite netball strength and conditioning coaches on this exact topic.
Put simply, you don’t run 5km non-stop in a straight line in a game of netball, so why would you train that way?
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Instead, think about interval training – that’s periods of medium-high intensity work over shorter distances, followed by short periods of rest, and repeating it multiple times.
Not only can you get better results in a shorter space of time, but it’s easier for athletes to remain motivated when they’ve got regular milestones or timechecks during a session. They’ll be amazed how quickly 30 minutes can elapse when it’s broken into two-minute or three-minute chunks.
You’d know this yourself: how much easier is to motivate yourself to put on those running shoes and head out the door if there’s someone waiting for you at the park?
Sometimes it’s effective to pair players up over the holidays so that they keep each other accountable and motivated. If a few players are getting out together, a little bit of FOMO might be enough to coax some others out of the house.
GIVE THEM MORE THAN THEY’LL NEED
Based on experience, only a small percentage of players are going to follow your program to the letter, however many will do at least some of it.
Strategically then, if you want your players to do two sessions a week, give them a program that lists three sessions per week. That way you’re catering for the players who want to do everything, but you’re also a better chance of getting the rest of the team of doing at least something, for fear of falling too far behind.
WHAT TO PUT IN THE PROGRAM
Your players are probably dropping from at least one formal training session and game each week (or more, for a lot of players) down to zero over the break.
So aim for a program that goes close to matching their in-season schedule. If your players can complete two sessions per week over the holidays, they’ll be in pretty good shape for that first training session in January/February.
Ideally, the program should also include simple strength exercises that can be completed in 5-10 minutes at the start/end of each session, without the need for extra equipment.
RUNNING SESSION 1 (EASY DIFFICULTY)
- 5min warmup jog
- 4-6 x 3mins easy running, 1min hard running
- 5min cool down
RUNNING SESSION 2 (HARD)
- 5mins warmup jog + active stretching
- 4mins easy, 1min hard
- 3mins easy, 2mins hard
- 2mins easy, 3mins hard
- 3mins easy, 2mins hard
- 4mins easy, 1min hard
- Cool down
- (For younger players, just remove one or both of the 4min/1min blocks)
RUNNING SESSION 3 (MEDIUM)
- 5min warmup jog + active stretching +3-4 30-metre run-throughs
- 1x800m hard, followed by 2mins rest
- 2x400m hard with 1:30 rest between each.
- 4x200m with 1min rest between each
- 4x100m with 30secs rest between each
- 5min jog cooldown
- (Again, remove some of the longer repetitions for younger players)
RUNNING SESSION 4 (MEDIUM)
- 5min warmup jog + 3-4 30-metre run-throughs
- 100m sprint @ about 90%, with jog back recovery
- Repeat for 90m, 80m, 70m, 60m, 50m all the way down to 10m, then back up…20m, 30m, 40m etc, all the way to 100m
- Jog cool down
SIMPLE STRENGTH EXERCISES FOR EACH SESSION