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Another year means another new set of Beacons Academies; this term has seen some fantastic returning netballers and newbies with great potential. We started off this term with our academies in Lewisham and Dulwich full up with enthusiastic young players who couldn’t wait to get started on match play (which was evident of how many asked me on the first session!). On the first week, we did some basic ball skills to shake off any of the summer rustiness for the girls and to get them used to handling the ball. After we had done this we went straight into match play, to all of the girls’ delight, we mixed up the age/year groups and split the girls into different teams which meant they could easily get to know everyone in their academy. This also allowed us to gauge the fantastic level of netball and what we needed to work on in the following weeks.

In week 2 our main focus was on change of direction and movement skills, this week was an important one as changing direction correctly is a key aspect of the game. So with each group, the coaches did a lot of different drills with the girls having to change their angles and hip movements. After the drills were completed and the snack/drinks break was over we went straight onto match play with the girls and could already see a massive difference in the girl’s movement which was week 2 over with satisfaction.

Week 3 was all about passing and footwork skills, the key skills for any netball player to have mastered. We started off with passing against the wall which is really good for any player to do as it shows them how there passing is improving, as I always say the wall will give you what you give the wall! We could see a massive improvement in the girls passing as the session went on and felt the girls had really taken on board the coaching points. We then moved onto out footwork portion of the session, this saw the players doing a lot of landing skills and landing on their both Left and Right feet as well as both, may not sound that hard now but I can assure you once you get going it isn’t that easy! The majority of the groups even managed to get on to turning in the air which is a harder skill but those who moved onto it were definitely mastering the technique. When we began gameplay we made it clear to all the girls we would be looking at footwork and passing as the key of the games and I have to say there were a few footworks but a huge step up from the week before!

Week 4 we moved onto defence and of course where better to start than at stage 1, which is all about marking your player. The one question I always ask at the start of a defending session is “who on the court is a defender?” luckily and to my relief, in every session, the majority of people said EVERYONE, phew! First obstacle out the way we look at angles and how the girls should place themselves when marking a player, we also looked at changing your angles or Wonky T, as the girls now know the stance as, when your player is changing direction. Some sessions took to this quicker than others however most sessions struggled with having to look at the player and the ball and they all learnt the new phrase “peripheral vision”. We also played a fantastic game of Rats and Rabbits which the girls absolutely loved the reaction and chasing involved, however, I got a lot of different animals throughout the day, even Hippos and Elephants! When moving onto gameplay it was clear the girls had taken the session on board with lots of lovely interceptions and even 2 handed ones, job done for week 4!

Week 5 was the last session before the October half term, with a lot of tired girls and tired brains we knew this session would be a challenge! Our focus for this week was small-sided games, so we played a lot of different games to get the girls thinking tactically which was great to watch. The girls came up with very good solutions to problems and even some very interesting but wonderful ways of distraction. As normal we ended the session with gameplay, however, we must have woken the tactical brain up in some of the players as the gameplay was very well executed, all in all, a great first half to the term. Bring on the rest of the term and 2018!