A fast five bullet for Dominica
Last month I suggested the idea of a "fast five" netball competition be introduced in Dominica. At least, this was to be implied in the development sense for the improvement or enhancement of this sport here. An initiative would be to initiate the approach among senior club players right after their seven per side league, with a view to assisting players to improve their outlook on individual and team efficiency for their regional effort at the longer version of the game. That is one way to kick start this new dimension. Another way may involve an accent on eight to ten year olds taken into a speedier embryonic feature of more dynamic mobility – more drive, greater power and snap focus on high maneuverability. This latter may sound like a big mouthful, but imagine the emphasis as one of pace aligned with the third and fourth gears of a motorcar rather than the stagnant first gear.
Most students of netball would prefer the fast five programme to spring forth among the more experienced players for the simple reason there may be less wastage through the ball going out of bounds and perhaps the business of minimizing turnovers as a likely expression of less mature skill components. This is not an argument to be ignored. Still, there is a place for fast five among newcomers, definitely after they have overcome the teething phases in their graduating to the power phases in netball.
There are those who will conservatively shy away from the intense exertion factor for the very young – both as regards ground to be covered by an individual and attendant stamina implications of fast five. To them I will remind that even in seven per side school matches there are players in almost any school team – positionally listed as Centre, Goal Attack and Goal Defense who typically undertake between them around seventy percent of their team's workload on a regular basis. If they can take this in stride in the longer game they ought to be easily equipped for the shorter game. What special provision I would mix into the younger player's fast five league would be special substitutions arranged to employ more players rather than having too many bench warmers.
Another consideration could be that of featuring one or two tenderfoot youngsters mingled along with more mature players to assist in affording the former an accelerated jump start towards early excellence and maturity. Whichever way it is attempted, a system of facilitating greater progress can evolve handsomely. The important thing is to move forward along really serious lines.
What then of the lines we may label as truly serious? The skills factor must necessarily be given proper attention. Too often we see the very new players assuming for an extended length of time a ponderous execution of their footwork. The accent should be weighted in favour of dynamism rather than players rigidly stuck as leaden footed sloths. Similarly, ball passing and catching has to be liberated, with 'fakes' as an automatic ingredient incorporated into the technique of movement off the ball and into effective spaces.
This element of instant efficiency is an absolute necessity. For instance, the centre pass must go to a very limited choice of outlets – the Goal Attack or the Goal Defense (as against four outlets in the seven per side game). It is such a pity the netballers of today are not favoured with videos pinpointing the midcourt play of past players like Alma Cools-Lartigue, Marie-Louise Laville, Francine Harris, Judith Nicholas and Dorothy Hurtault among others. These players typified how much the centre pass was not a situation for guesswork rather than clockwork. All of them were expert defenders in midcourt allied to their attacking propensities – something vital in the fast five requirements.
Let it be said fast five demands much more science applied to team practices. Movement is rigorous and consumes a greater quantity of footwear. However, the profitability of movement expresses in escaping the tenacious challenges of unrelenting opponents.
One of the signature recommendations for a senior netballer is the engaging in an exercise run lasting sixty minutes at least once a month – that is a time span equal to the length of a regular match. Supposedly we may scale down to 24 minutes in the fast five context. Yet, the demand intensity translates into two or more compressed exercise circuits each occupying 15 to 20 minutes at least weekly.
In order to lift the power demand in training, players could benefit from playing in teams of five against six or seven, and even teams of four against overloads of five, six or seven. There is no doubting the usefulness of handicap games where a team faces deduction of a stipulated number of points reckoned either at the end of the practice game, or points deficit imposed at the beginning.
Of course, there is no limit to the imagination to be employed in getting players to lift their game efficiency. What about a practice variation stipulating that all shots at goal must be attempted from three point range? What about an insistence on all shots at goal being taken after three passes from the centre passes or a pass taken from the sideline or baseline? What, also, of only one shooter stipulated exclusively to do the shooting? What of a stipulated minimum of twelve attempts at goal per quarter?
All these procedures are limited mainly to attack. Then, there can be defense applications: zoning applied rigorously and alternatively a particular opponent frozen out of the game etc.
Score proportions can be targeted to, say, 12 shots per quarter: 6 from one point range, four from two point range and two from three point range. Maintaining of a perfect score here would comprise 20 points per quarter – totaling 100 game points when this bonus of the power play is added!
I would be happy to share ideas with netball coaches and senior players on what I have written. Believe you me; there is no progress in any sport without a vision, conceptualization and proper execution of ideas. Progress comes only via a practical embrace of the boldness of adventure along scientific lines. We have the sporting potential and you never know from where it can come and overflow.