Good Evening Coaches…we hope that you are having a lovely week. Last month we shared Top Tips for Preparing for competition so naturally, March’s Top 10 are all about match day!
We’re now in the midst of the closing moments of the season; Nationals Schools and BUCS Big Wednesday Finals are both next week and many local and county leagues are drawing to a close. We are also halfway into the Superleague season (in the middle of round 8)…keep up to date with all competition results over at the amazing new Vitality Netball Superleague website.

So what makes the differences on match day? How do you keep players focused and come away with the result that you’ve worked hard for? As always, we have spoken to 10 coaches about their tip to share with the #netballcoachingfamily. We hope it sparks some new ideas to put in practice with your players next match day.

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Starting with our recently featured Performance Club Coach Gilly

  1. Gilly Salter – Performance Club Coach

Think ahead about opposition you are playing, or think ahead about your players, and write out a post it for each player listing one significant thought to help them focus during the game and stick it on their water bottle. Go through it with them as part of your pre-match briefing.

Examples from me include:

Breathe (typically for a shooter who might sometimes rush a shot)

Vision (for someone who might need to think about court awareness when driving through from one end to the other)

Dictate (for a defender who is playing against a GA who might be a play maker outside the circle)

My players love it, and it gives them the one thing to focus  on…..

2. Jess Dalby – Youth Coach

Coach of Fallibroome Academy, 2015 National Schools U16 Champion and 2016 U14 and U19 qualifier, Jess is in preparation for taking two of her squads to compete in the finals next week. Jess shares her tip.

I find that with both squads I have built a solid relationship and they have mutual respect for each other. I have an open door policy in that girls can see me at any point over the school day and speak to me if they have any concerns about the day.

On Match day before stepping of the coach I ensure that the girls are fully focused and ready to warm up. We have a set structure to the warm up and this sets them up to be focused from the ‘get go’ on match day. I feel it prepares them mentally, very well.

During the day it is also important to be very positive and never voice negativity as it demotivates the team.

3. Sachel Grant – Performance Development Coach 

The important thing for me is to ensure that I do the same things each match, regardless of how many or how few support staff I may have on the bench. I ensure that certain tasks are already delegated to the Captain and Vice Captain and that they know their responsibilities. Things such as; doing the toss for first centre pass, organising music for the warm up and leading the warm up. I would only interject in the warm up if I wasn’t happy with the pace or if I was reviewing how fit one of the players was.

We may have a game of ‘Heads Up’ to help settle nerves but when its time for business, the team talk begins.

It is key for every match to ensure that the pre-match talk is fit for purpose, varied and not information overload. I have played inspirational videos before, asked the girls to write down a strength for each person in the squad and the squad member has that to focus on during the warm up and game. I may send them an inspirational quote on the day. Give them an objective on a post it note or a cue card. Get them in a group and ask them to discuss their objectives or unit objectives. I will then finish off and keep them focused.

Just ensure that the team talks are varied, but the key messages have been established and clear. Remember, no matter how important the messages are, don’t overload.

Olivia and her team after winning the Stockport Schools Tournament on Wednesday.

4. Olivia Barber – Youth Coach

If you have players that aren’t selected they still need to feel valued so sit down and talk to them before a game and explain that they may not play. Get them to have an invested interest and suggest what attributes they offer the team and what they could improve on. Be as honest as possible with all the players and transparent about the desired outcome of the game. Making sure that they all value one another as team mates is also key. No one can be seen as a weak link, or a player that they can’t win without. Create one cohesive unit by demonstrating this behaviour on match day and not holding to much weight on one player or another and support the selection decisions with tactical / technical reasons.

5. Sam Meade – Performance Development Coach

We are lucky to have a team of people to support on match days so that I can focus on the coaching. Although I appreciate that many coaches do not have this, so my top tip would be to make the most of what you have available to you, and plan ahead.

Have copies of templates with you. Prepare them in advance and keep them in your kit bag. A parent might turn up on match day and be willing to support with taking stats, or it could be a good way to engage any players on the bench. Following the match, after players have cooled down and eaten you can spend some time doing performance analysis with your team. Statistics and video playback can support your coaching points for the players.

6. Victoria Burgess – Performance Development Coach

1. Provide players with  2/3 areas to focus on e.g. Targets to achieve or work towards, strategies. Its important to not overload the players leading into a game.

2. Give bench players responsibilities to keep them focused throughout a game, for example, designate a player to lead warm ups before quarter times, ask unit players to take stats that can be fed back immediately to the team.

7. Jane Lomax – Youth Coach / Performance Club Coach

Have goals ready to support your desired  outcome that are more under your performers’ control. They can be team, unit and individual ones. This way all players have something to work for and achieve, whatever the result. It is particularly important to have a development focus in teams.

Also use goals for each quarter to score and keep opposition from scoring so, whatever way the match is going, your players have an achievable goal for each quarter. This helps keep concentration and effort to the last whistle even when the score margin is not so close.

8. Sue Young – Youth Coach 

Sue coaches Greenhead College, reigning champions of National Schools U19, and qualifiers for the 2016 finals being held next week. Sue was in the midst of pre-competition friendly matches when I spoke to her and shared a top tip that she identified as incredibly important on match day. 

It’s all about team spirit & friendship – When all the training has been put in place, when the girls are on court they have to work it out together. The girls get on as a team, as friends and tell it as it is. On the day if someone isn’t giving it their all in the warm up, or they aren’t choosing the right options, if passes aren’t going into the circle, their team mates will be upfront and let them know. They are comfortable and confident in doing this as they know it is about the game, they are friends and give it to them straight.  It is about communication, not criticism and positive reinforcement of what they need to change to achieve success.

As their coach I appreciate this is built ahead of match day, but my advice would be to set the standard. When the coach talks players need to listen, outline clear expectations; if we don’t have fun playing netball isn’t enjoyable. When we play opposition that take it out on each other and become negative this is when their game play falls apart.

So don’t rush home after your match, spend an extra 30 minutes to all sit around together, have a pit stop for lunch on your journey home, or go for a picnic, and facilitate those moments for your players to have some ‘banter’ and be more than just team mates and become friends. Invest in your next match after this one.

Thornhill

9.  Lucy Nicholls – Children’s Coach 

With Children it is all about creating a positive experience of competition, and about in-game development. I want them to enjoy competing and leave wanting more irrespective of the result. More emphasis should be on acknowledging when they’re putting things into practice that we have been working on in training.  Parents attending competition can also have a positive role if they understand the importance of this.

My top tip would be to brief parents about what you have been working on in training and encourage positive reinforcement (along with setting some ground rules). Remind parents and players what you want to see on court and focus on their development of this throughout the game. Always be enthusiastic and encouraging!

10. Mikki Austin – Performance Club Coach

Brunel University Netball Coach, Mikki shares her tip. Brunel 1st team are top of the Premier South Division and are heading to BUCS big Wednesday finals next week. 

My top tip for match days as a coach is to keep it as simple as you can. Be relaxed so that energy feeds off to your team, and on big games keep your team talk down to a minimum, players already know and understand the occasion, giving lots of encouragement and letting them know it’s ok to make a mistake so to not play with fear.

As you can see it is pretty clear that it is important not to overload your players on match day. Trust in what they have learnt from training and going into match day make sure that you are clear as the coach what each player’s focus should be. We hope that you find these tips helpful!

Good Luck to the coaches and their teams that contributed to the Top 10 this month in their upcoming finals! And Good Luck to all of you with big matches coming up. Let us know if any of these tips help you.

Next month we will be looking at the important things to consider at the end of the season including debriefing your squad and off season advice. Let us know on Facebook or Twitter if there is anything in this topic that you would particularly like tips on.

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