First played in England in 1895, netball has become a popular team sport that the Unites States of America Netball Association claims is played by 20 million people worldwide. Similar to basketball, the sport requires you to have a good aerobic capacity to keep up with the pace of the game. The game itself is an effective aerobic workout, as you must be vigilant in sighting the ball and keeping yourself in position for a pass. To go from a good player to a great player, most coaches recommend you add outside aerobic training to your practice schedule.
Netball was born from basketball, but there are as many differences as there are similarities. A team consists of seven players, and the goal is to throw the ball through the opposing team's net. The court is divided into zones, and each player must stay within her zone. The ball is passed instead of dribbled, and only two players are allowed to attempt a goal. The net has no backboard, so ball control is important because there is no such thing as a rebound. Defense is much less aggressive than in basketball, with a minimum three-foot distance between players. Netball is considered a non-contact sport.
Unlike soccer, where players continuously run up and down the field for the whole game, netball is more of a start-and-stop game. You must stay within your zone, but you are still generally free to move about the width of that zone, and may have to do so very quickly at times. So, although netball doesn't require a sustained period of aerobic activity, you must be able to transition quickly and efficiently between aerobic and anaerobic bursts. The Top End Sports website recommends shuttle run tests, in which you run a set distance at increasingly faster speeds as a part of netball training. This teaches you to transition from aerobic to anaerobic activity. Since it's performed on the gym floor, it also teaches you foot work and control as you pivot around cones at starting and finishing points.
Players wishing to improve at netball should stick to a regular training schedule outside of practice. Netballpost.com recommends at least 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three times per week. Fartlek, or interval training, is the most useful aerobic exercise for netball players because it improves aerobic capacity while getting your body used to switching rapidly between aerobic and anaerobic activity. For example, you may walk for one minute, then jog for one minute, then sprint for one minute. During the walking and jogging phases, your body is using aerobic respiration for fuel, but it switches to anaerobic respiration when you switch over to the sprint. This mimics game play, when you might walk or jog to keep track of the ball, then sprint to catch or block a pass.
Developing anaerobic capacity is also important if you are a netball player. Although your aerobic capacity must be in top shape, it is a well-developed anaerobic capacity that will allow you to maintain your strength throughout the game. Because the ball is passed instead of dribbled, upper body strength is important. A twice-weekly weight training session can improve muscular endurance. Because weight lifting doesn't raise your heart rate to the aerobic level, it can help improve the anaerobic capacity.
Agility and endurance are important factors in a netball game. Agility comes into play when dodging blocks or passing the ball. An untrained player can easily become injured simply by stepping or landing wrong. Plyometric training can help teach you control, and may improve your vertical jump as well. Endurance training should also be a part of netball training, as you must have the athleticism to last until the end of the game. Occasional long runs or longer, lower-intensity fartleks can help.
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