A coach has asked me to play up a grade next season. Should I play up or stay down and play with my age group?
Happy New Year to all friends of Jeanieboy and NETFIT Netball. I hope you are all having an awesome summer, spending special time with family and enjoying great food.

There is a great feeling in the air with many netballers starting their pre season earlier and clubs getting organised for a big season 2016.

Over the break I have received many message from our netball family for some tips leading into the new season. I through i would share with you a common question I get asked this time of year.

I was recently asked; “A coach has asked me to play up a grade next season. Should I play up or stay down and play with my age group?”

Many clubs and associations have rules in place that state that ‘players should play in their age categories, regardless of skill level’. If that is the case, you must play by the rules at your club and respect those who have put those rules in place.

In this case, the coaches in clubs approach the player so it becomes an independent choices. You should consider the following:

– Write down all the positives of moving up a grade and all the negatives. When we actually see these points written in front of us, it provides us with some clarity to make our decision. Everyones needs are different. Some of us just play for the enjoyment and friendship and others play to push themselves as high as they can go.

Some negative thoughts and point that we may write down:
– I will miss playing with my friends
– Training will be harder
– I may have to train an extra night
– I won’t keep up and my fitness wont be as good
– My friends might get mad at me if I choose to leave our group
– Opponents will be more physical and taller because they are older

Some solutions to our negative list:
– True friends will be our friend no matter what team we play for.
– Enjoy the feeling of training hard and we will see our fitness and skills improving. The key is to partner ourselves with a player that will always push us to be better every single training session.
– Yes older players will be more physical. But they will also be more skilled which will lift our skills up. We have to work on our own skills to prepare our body for strong contest. Stand up tall. Practice landing technique and work on our fitness and footwork.
– If you have fears of not keeping up, accept that you are a little younger or a little smaller. You have room and time to improve. Just take one training at a time.
– Practice positive thinking and imagine positive outcomes/scenarios like winning grand finals, playing interleage or REP and even playing for the Diamonds.
– Focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses. Even the best players have weakness in their game.
My advice to any player with a high performance goal to play top netball, is to put yourself in an environment that you can be pushed. If you are not feeling pressure or being pushed, your game won’t develop. The most common thing I believe stopping women achieving our goals and pushing ourselves into this new environments is lack of confidence.

Everyone tells us ‘confidence is key’ but it can be easier said than done. How can we instill confidence in ourselves as players and our players as coaches?

Speaking both perspectives, playing and working with young women on a daily basis, I see dramatic improvements in skill once they master their positive thinking and establish a ‘no fear’ attitude.

As a coach, my first mission before I even introduce a skill, is to ensure players believe they have greatness in them and let them know its ok to make a mistake. I find once my players relax they become more open to trying a new skill and taking a few risks.

I then see their skills evolve.

So what did I do when I ever had self doubt or felt low in confidence as a player?

I just threw myself into the deep end and created positive thoughts in my head.

My thought patterns were:

– If it doesn’t work out, at least I gave it a try.
– Don’t have regrets – don’t be a sook 😉
– Everyone was a beginner at some point. Just chip away
– If we are lucky enough to have our heath, we areas very fortunate. Many people don’t and I still think; what would these people do if they were blessed with a healthy body and mind? I imagine they wouldn’t think twice to give it a go!

So my advice to any netballer that wants to be the best they can be, is to always play up a level if the opportunity presents.
Push yourself
Back yourself – or no one else will
And when we make a decision, be happy with it and never look back.