The first working week of 2016 is complete! Friday is here and it’s time to sit back, relax and catch up on the England Netball Coaching blog. Yay!

Following our focus on the importance of game understanding over the past few months, this week we have a brilliant topic; Developing Games Players, from guest blogger Dannii Titmuss. Dannii is one of England Netball’s Performance Pathway Coaches and has shared with us some of her experience and some handy tips for developing our Netballers…so get your cup of tea at the ready and enjoy…

Games Player, Netball Player, Athlete

My Coaching journey so far

Google Ad Manager – MPU – In Article

I began coaching career when I was 14 at Turnford Netball Club, taking the U12 ‘B’ team and haven’t looked back since. My background has included coaching across a range of ages and abilities, however the majority of my coaching experience has been working with performance athletes. I am currently the Performance Pathway Coach at Barking Abbey, Mavericks Youth Technical Coach (mid-court), Turnford Netball Club’s Senior Coach and have recently been appointed as a Selector for the National Academy. I moved to Australia for a couple of years to learn more about netball and coached the Sydney University State League squads. In the past I have also coached the England NETS mixed Squad and was the East Regional Excel Coach.

I am inspired by the athletes I work with, they are the reason I do what I do. It is incredibly gratifying to see their hard work and commitment being rewarded with improvements both in their performance and transition along the pathway. It is nice to feel I may have played a part in the success of their netball journey – the aim is for at least one of them to be wearing a gold World Champ medal round their neck one day!



The importance of encouraging players to play at different levels, providing them with lots of competition opportunities

I learnt heaps when I was in Australia, one of the biggest differences I noticed was the volume of netball played (at all levels) and the access athletes have to playing opportunities – it is huge. I believe one of the most important places athletes develop their performance is in competition – in order to become good at playing netball, you should probably play netball!

As a coach it’s important to ensure athletes can access three levels of competition. It is important that players have access to these levels of competition at the same time although priorities may shift throughout the season.  I often describe this to the athletes as having one level where you are stretched, possibly spending time on the bench; a level which is where you are currently at and spending most of the game on court; and a level where you can practice and lead.


Thinking outside the box – Developing Netballers as games players

Athletes are advised to train their age in hours per week (based on 10,000 hours/10 years of deliberate practice to become elite research – Ericsson, 2006, The Influence of Experience and Deliberate Practice on the Development of Superior Expert Performance). The best netballers can often be great games players, and I see a lot of performance athletes come from a multi–sport background. From my experience, in the UK athletes tend to specialise at about 14 years old, in Australia this tends to be slightly later, around 16 ish. I believe we should encourage athletes to play multi-sports, particularly invasion games (i.e. basketball, football, hockey, rugby, handball, ultimate Frisbee). These skills are transferable, as invasion games share principles of play – (1) attacking the goal, (2) taking ball near goal, (3) maintaining possession, (4) identification of gaps, (5) feinting, (6) achieving an advantage, and (7) supporting and orienting/creating and using space, and the reverse of these seven principles when in defence (Memmert & Harvey, 2010, Identification of non-specific tactical tasks in invasion games).

To encourage netballers to become games players and have a deeper understanding of the game, by developing their game-sense, I believe it is important to play a variety of invasion games, netball at different competition levels, and also in a range of settings, including variations of traditional netball.

Such as:

NETS (Indoor Netball) – played on a smaller court, where it’s tougher to get free in a smaller space and therefore players have to excel at making changes of direction. The repossession rule means ball handling has to be better, encouraging cleaner catches/interceptions. Played inside a net, the ball never goes out, so athletes have to play continuously. Playing inside a net also challenges athletes to problem solve differently – i.e. feeding off the net to find the ballside angle of your attackers.

Street Netball – has easier accessibility for informal play. It can be played on a basketball court and has fewer rules than traditional netball (no over a third, less restrictions on positional boundaries). As there are no set positions all players can experience playing across all the court. As the re-start is from a backline the game is more ‘free-flow’, therefore decision-making can be quicker.

Mixed Netball – generally speaking, toughens up female athletes. Boys tend to be more physically developed and a little more rough-and-tumble – therefore it pushes the girls on to compete with them. Boys come with a fresh set of eyes to netball, so you see the game played in a really different style.

Coaches can also develop game sense within players by introducing variations of game play into training sessions. I often start warm ups with a game i.e.

  • Half-court street netball
  • Half-court basketball
  • Ball tag
  • Find the Gap
  • Tag rugby
  • Frisbee
  • Cops & Robbers
  • Netball with a tennis ball
  • 2-second netball
  • Running netball
  • Line ball
  • Fetball (a netball/football game)

Or make something new up! It’s a great opportunity to warm up an athlete’s decision making, as well as their bodies!

Depending on the focus of the session, coaches can also implement modified versions of the game during training. For example:

  • Versatility netball, promotes athletes to understand the roles and responsibilities of each position.
  • 1-2 second netball is useful for quickening the speed of release and highlights the importance of athletes knowing where to move (if you want to get rid of the ball quickly, you need someone to be moving into where you’re looking).
  • High 5 (although a game created for primary school age) is a great way to introduce a conditioning element to training, making players work harder as there are only 5 on court – and if you play the rotation it is a good way for athletes to experience all positions (limiting “I am only a GS/I only a GD”, and creating “I am a netball player” mentality).
  • FastNet / Fast5 (another game good for conditioning GD, C, GA) are games where you can shift the focus (i.e. 2 second release/must offload forward after a lateral ball/must receive ball after a change of direction), but also see who is brave enough to take the long bombs.
  • “Netball-in-a-box” a game similar to NETS, where there is no out of court, and players can play off the walls.

From my experience athletes really enjoy playing outside the traditional rules, and as long as it’s given a focus by the coach, it can be really useful to develop performance and cement the learning of the session.

I would also recommend coaches (or players to take the initiative) and travel out of your area, whether that’s to play in a different county or against a club you don’t usually play, or even go further afield to international tour i.e. short-haul flight to Switzerland, or long-haul flight to Australia, New Zealand, or Jamaica. It is a great way to experience another style of play.

Fresh Idea Friday – Put it into practice! 

 Cops & Robbers

  • There are two teams of 5 (5 attackers and 5 defenders) and 1 ball.
  • The game is played on half a netball court.
  • Netball rules of footwork, contact and obstruction are enforced.

cops & robbers


  • The ball starts on the circle line.
  • The 5 defenders start in front of the line A, the five attackers start in front of line B.
  • The attacking team need to get the ball, whilst the defending team track the attackers movements.
  • Once the attacking team have the ball they must aim to catch the ball over line B.
  • If they attacking team successfully receive the ball over line B they receive 1 point. If the defenders intercept the ball they must get the ball over line A to score a point.
  • After each point scored the ball is returned to line A and the game is re-started.
  • The attacking team have 3 attempts to get the ball over the line.
  • After 3 attempts the attackers and defenders switch roles.

Video of game being played is available on Talent ID resource website. (As is Find the Gap)

Thank you so much to Dannii for a heap of fresh ideas this Friday! What an interesting read and insight into developing our Netballers. Do you play any of these games already, or have any that you want to share? We can’t wait to share with you Fetball in a future Fresh Idea Friday, coming soon!

Have a netball fun filled weekend!

Team Coaching


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