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Without accurate passing, it would be a struggle to move the ball forward to the goal circle.

Once your netball season is under way, after about four rounds you should be approaching match fitness along with improvement in your training drills and general fitness.

However, with all the excitement of a new season it is easy to lose sight of the fundamental structure of the game – passing the ball. It is natural when you are playing at your best to relax your training intensity and to become a little casual. It only takes a few weeks without constant practice for your skills to deteriorate.

Coaches and fitness trainers can sometimes become side tracked by constantly trying to find new and better drills to improve player performance and the basics are being neglected.

Muscle Memory:
It’s important to note that your physical skills, such as passing, goal shooting, hand and eye coordination drills are logged into your brain through “muscle memory” and if you stop practicing your brain will stop logging the information.

Stop passing the ball in training and your brain will think you no longer require this skill and concentrate on your more recent activities.

Passing is fundamental to netball:
The core fundamental skill of a chosen sport must be practiced constantly. In road racing (cycling) it is spinning the pedals and in netball it is passing. Please don’t slacken off with your passing drills – it’s a priority drill.

You can always tell if a player or a team has neglected their passing practice. She starts to look ordinary on court, losing fluency then runs through the team. With poor passing skills, teams will start losing games.

Like a goal shooter, who must constantly practice to maintain a high shooting percentage, the same also applies to every player to constantly practice passing to maintain accuracy and thus keeping the game flowing through to the goal shooters.

Through lack of passing practice several problems arise:

 Catches are dropped from passes being too high or too low.

The pass is inaccurate and thrown out of court.

 Players can’t stay forward of the ball because poor passing skills have them constantly waiting/holding ground.

 This results in a start/stop effect of the team trying to stretch for the ball allowing the opposition more chances of interception than necessary.

 Missed goal shooting attempts because of interception by the opposition defenders.

 Player frustration seeing poor passing by their teammates.

You can see a trend starting to develop with complete team breakdown all because of poor passing skills.

Watch a team, club or state level where the players don’t misjudge their passes and you will be looking at a team which will go from strength to strength as the season progresses. This team would be hard pressed not to find themselves in the finals.

Training for fast and accurate passing of the ball is a walk in the park and a whole lot of fun if done right.

Passing and catching training:
Our club trains twice per week with passing drills. You don’t need to be on a court for this training, a grassy lawn or oval is fine.

Cut the cake is probably the mainstay of passing drills for developing accuracy and speed. The key in this drill and all others is total concentration by the players. If you slacken off or some players aren’t serious the whole exercise becomes pointless. The results will be mediocre.

You must concentrate throughout the entire drill no dozing off!

When you practice this drill, don’t stand too far away from each other. Start only a few of metres apart to learn short fast and accurate passing and catching technique.

How to pass:
First, you must pass the ball properly using one handed passes. The throwing action is a straight through action with the power coming from your shoulder.

Many players have been taught to use the two handed pass from chest level. This is a weak pass as body movement and control is minimal and ball control is not as accurate.

To execute a two handed pass, a player needs strong wrists, strong fingers and a very flexible back. The mechanics of this awkward method makes this pass more of a twisting off-load rather than a fully controlled pass. This is because the thrower does not have balance which in turn leads to decreased power and direction. The single arm action of the shoulder pass produces power, direction, accuracy and length. It is foolproof!

Certainly a player who hasn’t developed her passing skills can feel more comfortable passing with two hands, it’s much like how primary school children will pass before they are shown the correct method. It’s easier at first because there is no technique involved.

As with any acquired skill, passing has to be learnt (coached) to develop the proper technique for the speed and accuracy needed on a fast paced netball court.

If you try to pass the ball with an out stretched arm or from an obscure angle the throw will be weak as your only power now is in your wrist and forearm and the direction of the throw will go the way your arm is pointing, which could be anywhere.

When passing the ball it is to reach the player at chest height and NOT at her knees or face. Don’t make your teammates over stretch and work harder than they need to just to catch the ball. It is your responsibility to pass accurately.

When you make a pass either directly at your teammate or passing forward of your teammate the ball must arrive at chest height so she can catch then pass the ball all on in one easy and natural flowing action.

Pass strongly:
You must get the ball to the player as quickly as possible without over powering the player you are passing to. The key to strong, fast and accurate ball passing is NOT to pass over three metres.

I am always repeating to players, “three metre passes only”. Short passes ensure accuracy and to a greater extent limits opportunities for opposition players to intercept the ball.

Games for passing drills:
Passing drills can be a little mechanical but never dull, as a team who is keen and enthusiastic to play weekend competitions will always want to improve their passing skills and train with gusto.

Nevertheless, it is good to add variety in the form of games drills to keep player enthusiasm alive. There’s no standardization for passing drills so let your imagination do the work and invent your own.

Here are a couple we do:
1) Split your team into two lines facing each other about three metres apart. Pass the ball diagonally back and forth up and down the line. The idea is to get faster and faster without missing catches. To add some entertainment have the last player in alternate lines, after she passes the ball, zig zag back through the players on her side to the other end. It is up to the player passing the ball in the opposing line not to hit her as she progresses to the other end.

2) This drill defenders usually do the best in. Throw the ball to a player and she passes it back to you. The player sprints up and touches the ball and immediately you lob it back over her head as she dashes back to catch it. Don’t step once you have possession of the ball. This drill is perfect for hand eye coordination and reaching for the ball in a defensive position.

Even if you never get past “cut the cake” as a passing drill it doesn’t matter as long as your team practices passing regularly you will see certain improvement. Just be sure to pass correctly, chest height with one handed power from your shoulder.

I would like to add as a Sidenote that the best drill for hand and eye coordination is shooting goals. It doesn’t matter if you are not a goal shooter. Goal shooting develops accuracy and judgment, which the game of netball demands. 

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Tactics #1
This crucial tactic will
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You have got the ball to the shooters. What next? It is critical all players know how to work the goal circle to prevent a turnover.

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