As a player, I thought I knew a bit about netball.
I was playing at a state and national level, and over the years you do pick up some good knowledge and ideas about the game from the coaches and programs you have access to.
But it wasn’t until my state coach cornered me on the flight home from 2007 Nationals that everything changed.
“Would you ever consider coaching?”
“I don’t know … maybe. I’d never really thought about it.”
Two weeks later I’d been roped into coaching my first training session, with a game to follow a couple of days later.
What an eye-opener that was! Oh, how I wished I’d paid closer attention when the coach was teaching the defenders their setups for defensive throw-ins, or listened more intently as they explained how they wanted the ball transitioned down the court!
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Looking back now, though, being thrown in the deep end with a coaching role was absolutely the best thing I ever did for my netball – and I know dozens of coaches who’ll tell you exactly the same thing.
The truth is, you’ll never learn more or develop a better understanding of how things work on a netball court than you do when you have to coach it.
Teaching players not to “crowd”, how to hold, how to drive to create space for someone else and how to dictate and deny space defensively are just some of the important skills that can take months or even years for players to get a handle on. Same goes for centre pass structures and defensive teamwork.
When you have to COACH those skills, however, you gain an intimate understanding of how they work, why they work and how to recognise and fix it when things are breaking down on court. Bring those learnings into your own game as a player and you not only improve your own ability, but also help the entire team to function as a whole.
As a coach you see the errors that players make, or what it took for them to successfully execute a move or skill, and start to recognise them in your own game when you lace up your runners and get out on court. This allows you to start to coach yourself and improve your game and adjust within a quarter, rather than waiting until half-time for the coach to tell you what you need to do.
TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM
Speaking of the “team”, the other side of taking on a coaching role is gaining an understanding of how a group of players functions both on and off the court, and the things that need to happen or need to be managed in order for the team to be successful.
Until you’ve coached, you’ll never know just how challenging it can be to manage a group of players, their expectations and personalities. Very quickly you realise just how many little things can have an affect on the way a team plays, and how much time is spent dealing with challenges that have little to do directly with the team’s on-court performance.
As a player it certainly gives you a new level respect for the coaching staff and what they’re tasked with, and gives you pause to consider how you might support your own coach as a more effective team member and leader within the squad.
So if you’re a budding netballer, whether in your mid-late teens or older, and you really want to give your game an edge that very few other players will have, why not take on an 11/U or 13/U team, and give coaching a go?
You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn!
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