Get kitted out
While some basic sports clothing may be appropriate when you first start out, as you progress it is vital that you get proper netball kit that is comfortable and suited to the demands of the game so you can play to the best of your ability. If you’re planning on joining a team, it is likely that they will already have a custom kit that they play in.
Other kit consideration include the following:
Training shoes: Your trainers must have a strong sole with good support as using trainers intended for other sports, such as running, may result in an injury. The game is fast-paced and often demanding on your feet and ankles so a decent sports-specific netball shoe is absolutely vital.
Socks: Socks with good foot padding will make for a more comfortable experience. One suggestion is to wear two pairs of socks (or socks consisting of two layers) in order to avoid painful blisters.
Ankle and knee strapping: Due to the fact that the game often requires you to land from a height it is often preferred by many players to add strapping to your ankles and protect your knees with braces to avoid any unnecessary strain.
Jewellery, nails and hair: Jewellery is a definitive no-no and should not be worn on court; this will usually be checked by the umpires before the game. The umpire may also check the length of the players’ fingernails and the rule is with the hands reversed the nail should not be able to be seen over the fingertip. Also, hair should be tied back and out of the way at all times.
Get fit for the game
Netball is normally played at a fast pace and you’ll be expected to move about a lot, so it's important to get fit overall. It is important to do exercises that strengthen your core, stability and balance, improve your speed and heighten your endurance. Some tips to improve your fitness include:
Core strengthening, stability and balance: No matter what position you’ll be playing in, strengthening these areas will definitely assist you in being able to perform better. To improve strength, planking regularly can ensure that your core is strong. To improve stability and balance, performing strengthening exercises for the arms and chest while on a swiss or wobble board can help.
Increasing your speed: Speed is a vital element of the game with players needing to get into position quickly, change direction suddenly or leap up to intercept the ball. So, as a part of your training why not try jumping up stairs, low hurdles or skipping? Sprinting short distances can also be useful for netballers to improve leg strength and practice before the match.
Building your endurance: Lastly, endurance is essential to maintain strength throughout the whole game. Why not take up running to assist with this? This will ensure that your stamina is high for training and matches while ensuring you’re keeping fit.
Warm up well
Warming up is an essential part of any preparation before playing. Netball is notorious for injuries due to the movement and abrupt stopping required by players. Warming up before taking part in any physical activity improves performance and reduces the likelihood of obtaining an injury.
Here's some warm-up exercises to try:
- Aerobic: jogging for 5-10 minutes can help to prepare your body for physical activity and avoid a rapid increase in blood pressure when you start playing.
- Stretching: dynamic stretches such as lunches, leg swings and hip stretches prepare the body for activity by helping to increase blood flow and muscle temperature.
- Sport-specific exercises: when warming up for netball try to include sprints, shuttle runs and quick changes of direction.
Practise passing the ball with a friend
Passing is the most important skill used in netball, so get out there and practice by throwing a ball either on court or at home. Passes can be one or two handed so practice both and see what you’re comfortable with. If you’re struggling with a one-handed pass, don’t worry, at beginner level two-handed overhead passes are used most frequently so focus on this first before you advance to anything harder.
Practise by yourself
Here are some handy ways to practice netball by yourself:
- Mark a spot on an outside wall and practice throwing and catching a ball at different speeds and distances. As your throws become more accurate, also try practising with your less dominant hand to help you build equal strength.
- Improve your agility by marking a spot on a wall and practice leaping into the air seeing how high you can reach. Try and get higher everyday.
- Again, improving your endurance is key, so if jogging isn’t for you, try taking up swimming or cycling instead as this will help you to boost your on-court stamina.
Practise different moving styles
Netball requires players to move in many different ways: practice sprinting, jogging, running backwards and sidestepping in order to be prepared physically and tactically when it comes to the game.
Watch others at play
It may seem obvious, but watching other people playing netball can allow you to pick up plenty of tips. Look at the movement and tactics employed by other people who play in the same position as you. Try watching professional games online and see if you can learn from the way they move and navigate the game.
Try playing in different positions
Not everyone finds their best role instantly. It’s important to try out several positions to see which one suits you best, and it’s not a bad idea to be versatile and able to switch positions if required. Different positions require different abilities, here's the rundown of what skills are required for each position:
Goalkeeper: Goalkeepers need to be physical and alert at all times. They need to be quick on their toes in order to be able to intercept passes and have quick reaction times to assess the attacking teams’ movements.
Goal Defence: Goal defence players work closely with the goalkeeper to ensure they can block passes between the opposite team and prevent goals being scored. If you are able to read the game well and anticipate the other teams tactics GD is for you. Furthermore, the GD must have decent stamina as they have a lot of available space on the court.
Wing Defence: The job of the WD is not only to get the ball forward but also to mark the opposing wing attack and ensure to control the ball at all times to prevent interception.
Centre: Centre players control and manipulate the game having to be the fastest on the court and often receiving the most passes. Centre players must be able to intercept the ball and pass along the court quickly and effectively.
Wing attack: The wing attack must work effectively with the centre and be able to quickly receive passes. Speed is highly important as quick reactions are needed in order to receive the initial pass from the centre player and then move swiftly along the court. The WA may suit agile, speedy players the most.
Goal shooter: The goal shooter must have the ability to shoot accurately from a variety of positions within the circle. They must be able to react quickly to their surroundings and retain control over the ball with a steady hand and remain calm under pressure.
Goal attack: The goal attack’s main job is to work with the wing attack and centre to move the ball closer to the goal shooter. Their passing must be quick and direct to give the shooter the best opportunity to score.
Practise patterns of netball play
Once you’ve started to get some of the basics mastered, start to consider patterns of play on the court. You coach will be able to tell you which tactical patterns your team uses most.
Enjoy the game
Don’t take it all so seriously! Playing netball should be fun. Be competitive, but enjoy yourself too. Teamwork is key so make sure you have a friendly and comfortable relationship with your teammates as this will always result in the communication and performance in the match.