As someone who has coached netball at nearly every level, I’ve seen it all.
From the scabby-kneed five-year-olds in Suncorp NetSetGo to young women headed to state championships, it’s pretty hard to match the highs of a netball season, provided you have plenty of ankle tape, lolly snakes, and nail scissors in tow.
While coaches pride ourselves on creating happy environments for the girls (and boys), where they can learn to nail every pivot and dodge, there are some tips parents can use to help their kids get the most out of netball, too. In fact, most of these could be applied to all team sports, from player positions to scoring rosters.
Here’s what every netball coach wants their players’ parents to know:
1. Yes, your daughter will benefit from playing WD and GK.
We all love Goal Attack. And Centre. And Goal Shooter.
As someone who was once a skinny 12-year-old who adored nothing more than patting a goaler’s bib on my chest, I am not denying any of those things.
BUT – and this is a big ‘but’ – we can take so much away from playing in defensive positions. Learning to read the play, to go hard at the ball, and move our feet to get around our opponents are all vital skills that will serve us well when we earn that trusty GA bib back.
Also, I have seven bibs and 10 girls who all want to play in goals. You do the math.
And my bet? Your child will end up falling in love with Wing Defence. After all, we wouldn’t have superwomen like Gabi Simpson and Ashleigh Brazill without the trusty WD bib.
Being a team player is precisely what the #TeamGirls movement is all about. According to The Suncorp Australian Youth and Confidence Research April 2017, 88 percent of girls say playing sport makes them feel more confident, no matter what the position or competition level.
So trust that your daughter can help the team no matter what position she's in - it'll do wonders for her confidence.
2. Offering to create a scoring roster is one of the best ways to help out.
While it may be tempting to comment on a coach's tactics or decision-making, it's important to have clear boundaries between a coach and parents.
We LOVE it when you offer to wash those slightly-smelly bibs, refill the lolly container, or organise the best and fairest scoring. But when you approach us with a suggestion about what's happening on the court? We won't be so thrilled.
3. Your sideline behaviour has an impact on your child (and the entire team).
When the scoreline is tight, or an umpiring decision doesn't go your daughter's way, it can be easy to let frustration bubble over into some ugly behaviour on the sideline. While other parents might laugh this off, your sideline antics will have a flow-on effect that will possibly last the entire season.
Why? Because not only are you embarrassing your daughter in front of her teammates, you're planting a seed in her mind that umpires are unfair or biased (they're definitely not).
And if you do that, we all lose.
Umpires are human and are simply doing their job. It's better to teach your daughter that not all decisions will go her way, rather than feed a toxic belief that umpires are inept.
She will be a stronger, more reasonable player and person for it.
4. The car ride home is a tender time. Tread carefully.
When I spoke to Sports Psychologist Daniel Dymond earlier this year, the best piece of advice he gave me fixated on the all-important drive home, where parents and their daughters nut out what took place on the court.
His advice? Never give baseless praise to make your child feel better if they haven't performed well, or haven't been selected into a team they trialled for. Instead, give them tools to cope with rejection.
"When parents see a child upset about how they performed, sometimes they can say things that aren’t true that inflate their ego, but false encouragement creates a disconnect between performance and perception, which can be damaging down the line," Dymond said.
It's much better to acknowledge how your child is feeling, and share an experience from when you didn't perform as well as you would have liked. Then, you can discuss strategies for coping with rejection and implementing feedback.
This way, you're not only connecting over a mutual feeling, but you're building resilience - something that won't only serve her well in competitive sport, but in life.
5. Take your daughter to see how the pros do it.
If your daughter is determined to become the next Caitlin Bassett, Madi Robinson, or Jo Weston, then what better way to foster her passion than by taking her to watch her superheroes in action?
From the warm-up to the final whistle, the Suncorp Super Netball finals are electrifying and - the real clincher - involve zero Kardashians or half-naked pop stars. Instead? They involve real-life wonder women, who can move their bodies and push their minds to unbelievable levels.
After all, anyone who's been to watch the netball live knows following it on the telly just isn't the same.
Saturday June 10, when the Melbourne Vixens will battle the Giants at 7pm, will make for a truly inspiring night out.
The Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final will take place on Saturday, June 17. Get into it.
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Suncorp.