It’s that time of year again!
For many netball clubs and players, trials and selections have crept up on us once more, bringing with them great opportunities for players to demonstrate their improvement over the previous 12 months, as well as for clubs to identify new and exciting talent to bring into their netball program.
Inevitably, it’s also one of the most challenging times of the year, with selectors making tough decisions and players and parents experiencing some anxiety throughout the process.
Here are some tips and advice for selectors, players and parents to help make the coming weeks as smooth and successful as possible.
- Find the balance in selecting based on previous form, as well as trials performance. It’s the question people inevitably ask: does performance throughout the year count during selections? The answer, in our mind, is that of course it should. If a player is one of the best-performed in their age group during the year, but has an ‘off’ day at selections, that shouldn’t ruin their chances of being picked in a higher team. But if two players are very evenly matched throughout the year, then their performance under pressure at trials is an easy way to separate them.
- Keep an eye out for players who display skills that are very hard to teach. If there’s a young defender who is naturally leaving their opponent to hunt for intercepts when they see a high ball, grab them with both hands! Players who are displaying a natural ability to read the game are likely the ones who have the potential to reach higher levels, as you may need to spend months or years teaching other players those same skills. Likewise, midcourters with outstanding natural vision and flair are rare, so if one turns up at your trials, sign them up! There will always be a lot of players who are around the same level of ability, so look for players who have attributes that set them apart.
- Implement a ranking/feedback system. With so many players trialling, sometimes over multiple sessions and multiple weeks, it’s important to have a system in place that allows you to keep track of player performance throughout trials. One that’s always worked for us is 3-2-1 rankings, with players ranked as a 3 being absolute standouts in their age group, and looked at for the higher teams, 2s being solid but just below the top level, and 1s being considered for lower teams, if there are enough spots. Write little notes about players during each trial round, as it helps with remembering them when you sit down to finalise teams, and it also allows you to provide feedback to players, should they request it. Taking basic statistics can help, too.
- Establish your own opinion. Often other selectors will have coached or come across certain players before, and may voice their opinion on them, whether that be positive or negative. Avoid taking those opinions on board until you’ve viewed the player properly, and have established your own opinion. Reserve your judgment until the end, once you’ve viewed all the other players as well.
- Be engaged. Remember that when you’re sitting courtside, you’re almost certainly being watched by someone. Parents and players have an uncanny ability to see things you wouldn’t expect them to, and if a selector isn’t paying attention, or you’re talking to people and not watching the court, they’ll notice. So ensure you’re focused on the players in front of you for each selection round, and you won’t have to contend with questions about whether or not you missed a particular player starring in a certain round.
- Enjoy the experience. Trials is your chance to show what you can do! You’ve worked hard all year and you should be looking forward to the chance to get out there and make things happen. If you have a bad quarter, shake it off and focus on the next one, and remember that all netballers play better when they’re enjoying themselves.
- Come prepared. Don’t turn up and be overawed by it all. Nerves are natural, as long as they don’t get the better of you. Get there early and prepare yourself in the best way that you can. If you’re a goaler, have some shots at home before you leave, and then a few more once you arrive, so you feel comfortable with the rings. If you’re a player with a lot of nervous energy, get there early and have a bit of a run around, or play a quick game with friends to shake the nerves off.
- Play to your strengths. Remember what it is that you’re good at. If you’re a tall goaler who’s strong on the hold, show the selectors you can dominate in that role. If you’re a GD who’s awesome at bringing the ball out of defence, don’t sit back and watch while others do it – take the game on like you would in any other game.
- Carefully consider any positional switches. Often players are told (or feel within themselves) that they need to make the move from goals or defence into the midcourt when they’re about to move up an age group, because they’ll be too small at the next level. Regardless of whether you agree or not with the “too small” discussion, trials is never going to be the best time to play your first quarters in WA, C or WD. They’re specialised positions and players need time to learn them. So if you do plan on making that switch, get some practice in ahead of time, either with your regular team, another team, or at training, so you’re able to put your best performance out there at selections.
- Have a crack! As selectors, so often we get to the end of a 10-minute round and think, “I don’t remember that WD at all”, or, “the GA didn’t really do much”. Don’t leave anything out on the court – the selectors are looking for players to have an impact. If you’re a defender, focus on shutting down your opponent one on one, and then look for opportunities to intercept the ball – the selectors will remember you. For attackers, things like speed, agility, good passing decisions and awareness of space/other players are all going to factor highly in selections.
- Resist the urge to question the coaches and selectors. They’ve been asked to do a job, and they’re doing it. You’ll do your child no favours by being ‘that’ parent – demanding to know which team your child is likely to be selected in, or complaining because the selections aren’t to your liking. If you’re not prepared to let the process take its course, don’t sign your child up!
- Try to help your child make selections a positive experience. Some players take to trials like ducks to water, while others worry and find the process stressful. Encourage them to do their best, and remind them that they’re there to enjoy their netball and develop as a player, at whatever level they might be selected.
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