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WHY TAKING THAT ‘TRAINING PARTNER’ OR ‘TWOS’ SPOT MIGHT BE THE BEST THING YOUR NETBALLERS DO

There are few tougher times for a netballer than when they’ve put all of their effort, energy and hope into gaining selection for a team or squad, and then missed out.

When you’ve set yourself a goal and done everything you can to give yourself the best chance of achieving it, it’s incredibly, incredibly hard to hear or see that you’ve fallen short.

Some of our eagle-eyed subscribers who also follow Netball Victoria on social media might have spotted a familiar face from our drills, in a video feature from the National Netball Championships, which are on in Brisbane at the moment:

Enya’s story is one I’ll probably re-hash 50,000 times in the coming years when I talk to players who haven’t been selected in a team, have been picked in the 2s or 3s when they hoped to be in the 1s, or have been offered a ‘training partner’ position.

Netball coaches helping players deal with the disappointment of not quite achieving their goals – whether that’s at the elite level or under 13s – is something we’ve written about before, and with Enya, having just missed out two years in a row despite doing everything right, including extra sessions, extra fitness, performing in big moments at State League level and ticking a lot of other boxes, it was a hard pill for her to swallow.

Her initial feelings when she spoke to me after receiving the email offering a training partner position for the 19/U state team were very much around “why am I bothering?”, and questioning whether she’d take the spot, as it would mean committing to months of trainings with no guarantees of making the team, as essentially training partners are only called in if there’s an injury that rules someone out of the tournament.

THERE’S ONLY ONE GUARANTEE

Some players who don’t hit their goal or aren’t chosen in their desired team choose to pull out, and can’t be convinced otherwise. And that’s OK – different players deal with disappointment in different ways, and if that means stepping away, then that’s a choice they have the right to make.

But as we’ve said to countless players over the years, the only way to absolutely guarantee you won’t get the opportunity you want, is to take yourself out of the running for that opportunity.

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How many times have you seen it happen at your club? A player knocks back a spot in the 2s and leaves the club, only for a 1s player to pull out or suffer an injury a few weeks later. Had the 2s player taken it on the chin and resolved to keep training and remain committed in the hope that an opportunity would open up, that spot would be theirs. But because they’ve walked, the chance is gone.

Enya obviously chose to stay the course, and when a player succumbed to an injury a couple of weeks ago – as incredibly unfortunate and disappointing as that was for that player – she gained her spot in the Victorian 19/U team.

As you can tell from the video, the level of pride she has in pulling on that Victorian dress is off the charts, as she’s waited and worked so hard for it.

So that’s what I’d be saying to other players in the same boat, at whatever level they’re at: Ride it out, and see what happens – it’s incredible how often an opportunity becomes available.

THE CHANCE TO LEARN

Taking those knockbacks and working through them provides a heap of opportunities for players to learn, and in particular learn about themselves.

How badly do I want this? How hard am I prepared to work for it? What else can I do and who can I speak to that could help me achieve my goal next time?

As coaches, it’s also important to help your players understand and learn that missing out is OK. It doesn’t make them any less of a player or person – it’s just not their time right now. But maybe, if they continue working at it, their time will come.

At speaking engagements, Melbourne Vixens captain Kate Moloney often tells the story of her rise through the netball ranks, and it’s littered with times throughout her junior netball that she was overlooked for teams.

In fact, you’ll find very few players at the elite level who’ve had a red carpet ride through to the top. Almost all of them have missed out, been a training partner or been picked in a lower team multiple times throughout their netball careers.

The difference between them and other players who’ve had just as much talent but never reached the top is that the first group stuck it out long enough to find out just how good they could be.

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