One of the most challenging parts of netball coaching is the nature of the four-quarter game.
While in other sports like basketball and football, players can be interchanged regularly and at the coach’s discretion, in netball we’re mostly limited to the breaks at the end of each quarter.
I’ve always quite liked the fact that teams are unable to make changes for the entire quarter, as I think that if your team is well-drilled and consistent yet adaptable, it enables you to really press home the advantage in those quarters where your team is firing.
But for players, it inevitably leads to stigmas around “getting a half” and/or starting on the bench, because they know they know it’ll be at least 10-20 minutes before they come onto the court.
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And it also potentially limits the opportunities to be creative with our coaching, and expose match-ups or player/team strengths/weaknesses as a quarter develops.
Of course, we’ve now seen rolling substitutions become a part of netball at the elite level, first through Fast 5 and now in Super Netball.
But could it have a place in the future of our game at a local level?
Would it help you as a coach if you could make quick changes when things aren’t working? Would it alleviate some of your “court time” problems if you could throw players on for a few minutes throughout a quarter, so they’re not sitting on the sideline for extended periods?
Could it help with player rotations and giving younger players experience in more positions, as well as your ability as a coach to give them instant feedback by quickly rotating them off the court and then putting them back out there?
Or do you think part of netball’s appeal is that players have to be able to maintain their level of concentration, fitness and intensity for 10 to 15 minutes at a time?
On the flip side, Some of the obvious challenges that immediately present themselves are the requirement for each team to have two sets of identical bibs or patches for every game. With no time stoppages at local level, we can’t be wasting 10-20 seconds while players change their bibs over as they enter/leave the court, and buying an extra set of bibs for each teams is a major financial burden for any club, and particularly those with large numbers of teams.
There’s also potential difficulties with the setup/positioning of local netball courts. Often the designated areas for teams and coaches to stand are at either end of the court, rather than the sides, which would create issues if you want to substitute a position at the other end of the court.
And while it’s easy for elite competitions to monitor the substitutions, with multiple support staff, timekeepers and scorers allocated for every game, the task becomes a lot harder at local level, where it would inevitably fall to umpires to keep tabs on the constant changes.
Clearly there are pros and cons, but with other sports constantly evolving and offering up new ways to reinvigorate their games, could rolling substitutions eventually be the game-changer we need?