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Remote Netball – How to encourage team spirit online

By Director of Netball, Jenna Adamson

Jenna Adams

The move to remote learning and remote sport provision was a shift for everyone – students, staff and parents included! When I was transferring the Millfield Netball programme online, I knew the first place to start: the students. Pupil voice is one of the key components of what makes Millfield a place that fosters brilliance, so I wanted the girls to feel they had a part to play in the way the remote programme was designed.

When I asked the girls what they wanted the summer programme to look like, their responses were all the same: “We want to keep the same routine and contact time that we had before.”

The remote Millfield Netball programme aims to encompass everything our students would usually take part in while at school, which is exactly what the students wanted: fitness, teamwork and comradery.

Technology has also allowed us to stay connected better than ever – whether using Microsoft Teams, Strava, Zoom or social media platforms, there’s a place for everyone to feel part of the team.

Below are just some of the ways Millfield Netball has created a positive, development-led remote training programme that will help our students become better athletes, pupils and leaders:

Keeping a regular schedule

Our remote programme consists of three skills sessions a week: an attacking, defensive and a shooting session, which are all filmed and carried out by the players. We also send our students a ball programme every Monday for them to complete during that week. These sessions are released in the usual games times on a Monday, Wednesday and a Saturday and sent to all players. The aim is to help students maintain a normal timetable and to work hard on basic skills, as well as maintain fitness levels, so that when we return to school, we will be able to hit the ground running.

 

A chance to analyse

On Tuesdays, I send out an international or Superleague game for the students to watch. I pose some questions to them and get them to analyse segments of the game looking at playing style, phases of play, set ups etc. It allows for some thought-provoking discussions and reflections by the players.

 

"I have really enjoyed the netball online training during lockdown as it has kept me in touch with teammates and coaches and I have still been able to practice and get better at skills and drills. I believe this has been a great time to get the little things right." - Grace, Year 9 

 

A bespoke, flexible programme to suit individual needs

Our weekly routine also includes rotations and PS sessions, where everyone’s session looks very different depending on their needs. This may include an informal catch up, a live coaching session, providing feedback from the skills sessions they have recorded and sent to me or analysing and doing some match analysis with them. No session is the same and they change each week depending on what the individual wants to cover.

 

Fostering friendships

One of the most important things for the remote netball programme was to keep the girls connected with each other. Being separated so suddenly and the uncertainty in the world at present can be daunting for anyone, so our aim was to maintain a supportive framework, so friendships can flourish and help support our students’ mental health during lockdown. I think there is huge importance with bringing the girls together both with and without their coach: it gives them time to discuss their week, see each other’s faces and maintains those connections as players and friends. I believe it greatly aids their mental health and it is something which the girls look forward to doing each week together.

I have also set weekly challenges such as family workouts/shootouts and then combined their videos so that they can see what all the other families are doing on social media.  This way we are engaging not only players but their parents and then sharing this with the wider community within Millfield.

 

Leadership opportunities

We’ve found that this rare situation has brought about fantastic opportunities to hone leadership skills amongst athletes. Although I put together most of the sessions, the students have been putting themselves forward to lead and film a session which covers one of the key areas. This means that the players are learning from each other and helps keep them connected. Those leading the sessions are also working on their coaching and communication skills when they create videos for other players – these are invaluable skills that will stand them in good stead in the future.

Watch Year 11 netballer Elena's defensive skills video that she made for her team - a coach of the future!

Taking ownership of their training

Creating a culture and a team that takes ownership and is athlete-led is really important to me as a coach. They hold each other accountable and take turns planning and leading the sessions. There has been an abundance of content for the Millfield Netball players to utilise. Whether it’s taking part in the Millfield Institute of Sport and Wellbeing team’s three live strength and conditioning sessions a week, or insights from the age-specific Virtual Millfield Netball channels on Teams, the players are in control of their own success.

Check out this fantastic example from Year 11 student Sophie, who took initiative and set this fantastic ball skills challenge for her teammates:

 

Being there as a coach

Although we encourage independence, coaches are there for support and encouragement. I have set up group chats on Teams to check in with players, usually around once a week. For those that are participating in the programme fully, I speak with them a couple of times a week regarding their programme, giving feedback on their videos or just to see how they are getting on. For the first team, we have catch up every other week where we discuss their current load, discuss the season just gone and what the upcoming season will look like.

 

Connecting with the wider world and giving back

There have been some fantastic stories of students learning and trying new things, doing charitable work and delivering food for those who are vulnerable. Students have been doing nominated workouts and nominating each other to honour the men and women within the NHS. The national athletes are doing remote sessions for their countries and supporting the younger age groups within the pathway – a fantastic, inspiring message. Students are also enjoying spending time with their families who they would not normally get to see due to their work commitments and those boarding at school. I’ve particularly enjoyed seeing the girls’ skills extend to learning how to cook, paint and leading their families in workouts!

 

When I think about the lessons we can all learn from this experience, I hope that students will take away a feeling of accomplishment and appreciate actually how strong and adaptable they really are. I feel that for some, this time away will enable them to be a closer team when they return, as they have taken the time to really focus on the culture of the squad and what it means to them. As a coach, I have realised that you can do far more in terms of coaching remotely than at first you might think. Coaching isn’t just about the technical and tactical elements; it’s about understanding your squad and what makes them tick. It has been amazing to see how we have all adapted to and embraced a new way of learning and communicating, and I can’t wait to use these new skills to create an even better Millfield Netball programme when we return to school.

 

Learn more about Millfield's Remote Sport programme here.