Short girl problems: How to succeed at netball when you’re the smallest player on the court
Quite a few of us have been there. You arrive at your netball match and you’re the shortest girl on the court. It happened to me at school, at my office’s netball league and Back to Netball. Don’t despair — netball isn’t just for tall girls.
Australia’s Madi Robinson 168 cm (5 ft 6 in) and Sasha Corbin (1 cm taller) have bossed the netball mid-courts all over the world. (OK, these two are still 6/7 inches taller than me, but they’re playing against even taller netballers, so it’s all relative!)
So, what can you learn from them? Here are 12 tactics you can use to more than make up for your lack of stature:
1. Speed — Smaller players are often quicker around the court and harder for the taller players to keep tabs on. Quick, darting moves are your best friends on court. Here’s a couple of useful drills to practise in between games from Sisters n Sport.
2. Balance — Turn that lower centre of gravity to your advantage: Throw in some nifty footwork and you’ll be able to turn and change direction that bit quicker than your taller opponents and so shake them off your tail. Try these change of direction skills from the NSW Swifts.
3. Agility and reflexes — Being that bit closer to the ground and action, your reactions HAVE to be quicker otherwise you risk getting hit in the face or being at perfect elbow height for your taller opponent. So, your reflexes and alertness are often better developed from a self-preservation viewpoint! Check out Sasha Corbin’s agility tips here.
4. Work ethic — Being that bit smaller means you have to work a bit harder to cover the ground (literally!). But build on your stamina and turn it into a positive for your team. BE the dynamic engine that drives your team!
5. Using space — “Here when you need” — the cry of the Wing Attack. Very appropriate for a shorter player often ending up as a WA or WD. There’s no point your teammates lobbing the ball up to you as if you were Megan Craig, so you’ll need to dart into space if you want to receive the ball. Again, you can turn this to your advantage by being there for a quick one-two, especially around the circle.
6. Hustle — You won’t have the luxury of waiting for the ball to be passed above other people’s heads into your hands so you’ll probably have to do a bit of hustling in the mid-court to get involved. But every great team needs a battler with a big heart to get the team going, so why can’t it be you?!
7. Great technique — Netball is all about the technique — once the ball is in your hands, your height is less of an issue: Fake passes, one-twos, mixing up the type of passes are all in your armoury just as for any other team member. If you’ve got great vision for passing, your height will be no obstacle. There’s some brilliant passes on this Netball Squad article to inspire you.
8. Keep moving — You know when you have to mark someone that doesn’t stand still and how HARD it is? Well, be that person! Even if you’re half a foot smaller, they still have to mark you. Especially annoying for them if you’re behind them and they have to chase to keep up with you. If Madi Robinson of Australia can do it, so can you!*
9. Jumping and stretching — Add inches to your height! Just because you’re shorter doesn’t mean you can’t time those leaps or stretches for the ball perfectly and nick the ball back for your team!
10. Get close to your opponent — You may be several inches shorter, but your sheer presence and persistence will help put her off her stride. Put the player under pressure to make her earn every ball. Again, your stamina can take you far. Don’t give up! Check out this brilliant Netball Australia Guide to Defending for tips.
11. Reading the play — Get better at reading where the ball is going to end up: use this plus your speed to get there ahead of your opponent when the ball does rebound.
And most importantly, no. 12 — Self Belief
You might have been on the end of thoughtless comments from others at school or on the court about your height and your ability, but don’t let what other people say put you off a fantastic team game.
Take a leaf out of legendary basketballer Nate Robinson’s book. He certainly never let his 1.75 m stature put him off playing and became the NBA’s first three-time slam dunk champion. When questioned about his height, he simply replied “I’d rather have heart than height.”
- Source: The Saturday Paper 21/2/15 Interview with Madi Robinson