Netball

Netball games are played in four 10-15 minute quarters. Teams may be up to 12 players, with 7 players on the court at any one time. Because of the stop-and-go style of play, both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems are used during a game or training. This means that both recreational and elite players require endurance, strength, speed, agility and ball-handling skills.

About Netball

Training sessions may range from one session per week to one to two sessions per day. These may cover individual ball skills and goal shooting practice, team strategies, weights, running and high intensity sprints.

Elite netball players tend to be active all year round, and competition is can be made up of multiple games per week or weekend ‘away’ tours. At a recreational level, games are usually played in the evenings during the week or on weekends.

Training diet

It is important to eat a diet that has adequate amounts of carbohydrate.  This will ensure that muscle glycogen (stored energy) levels are topped up, thus fuelling those fast sprints and assisting in training performance and recovery As with all sports, a balanced diet that is low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals (from plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables) will help to keep up energy levels for optimal performance.

Fluid Needs

In order to stay hydrated, fluids should be consumed before, during and after training and matches. However, sweat losses will vary depending on training and competition times and venues.

If playing on an indoor air-conditioned court, players may find that they don’t sweat as much as if they are playing on a poorly ventilated court, or outdoors in the summer heat. Hot playing conditions will result in noticeably high body fluid losses; however, players should also be aware that they can still lose significant amounts of body fluids when playing in air-conditioned venues. The trouble is that, due to the cool environment, players are unlikely to feel the need to replace these losses. Rather than relying on sweat rate or thirst, a more reliable method of assessing your body fluid losses is a weigh-in before and after the game or training session. For more details see the Fluids in Sport factsheet.

Keep an eye on urine volume and colour – producing a small volume of dark-coloured urine is a sign of dehydration. As a general guide, drink 2-3L per day.

Eating before competition

The aim is to start any exercise session or competition well hydrated. This requires drinking regularly throughout the day leading up to training or competition.  Immediately before the training or competition begins, players should aim to consume 200-300 ml of fluid. This not only helps with hydration, but also prepares the stomach for accepting fluids throughout the game.

The pre-event meal needs should be eaten around 2 to 4 hours before the game. It should be carbohydrate based, low in fat and fibre and familiar. Fluids should also be consumed at the meal. Some suitable examples of pre event meals:

  • Breakfast cereal with low fat milk
  • Canned spaghetti on toast
  • Pasta with tomato-based sauce
  • Toasted ham and tomato sandwich
  • Fruit or fruit salad
  • Liquid nutrition supplement, such as Sustagen® Sport

Eating and drinking during competition

As netball is a game of high-intensity sprints, concentration, fast decision-making and ball-handling skills maintaining good hydration levels and adequate fuel (carbohydrate) supply is important for performance. Although there is no need to consume carbohydrate during a single match, during tournaments, carbohydrate rich, easy to digest snacks such as fruit, cereal bars or sports bars can help to top up muscle glycogen (fuel) stores between games. Competition venue facilities may not have suitable options to meet nutrition needs so players need to plan ahead and pack their own snacks, especially during tournaments. Some suggestions for portable snacks to eat between matches include:

  • Fresh or tinned fruit
  • Muesli or nut bars
  • Trail mix with dried fruit/nuts/seeds
  • Sandwich with honey/jam/ banana
  • Milk or juice ‘poppers’
  • Tub of low-fat yoghurt/custard
  • Creamed rice tins
  • Crackers or rice crackers

Hydration and fluid needs should also be considered with indoor environments (or hot outdoor environments), coupled with high-intensity exercise leading to potentially large sweat losses, especially in taller players. Frequent breaks in game play however, such as injury stoppages, quarter and half time breaks, provide the perfect opportunity to take in fluids. And while water is a must during training and for hydration during the day, sports drinks during a game may promote better performance as they provide some carbohydrates to the brain and working muscles as well as fluid.

Recovery

There are three important components of recovery nutrition:

  • Refuel muscle glycogen (carbohydrate stores)
  • Repair muscle tissue (for maintenance & development)
  • Rehydrate – replace fluids and salts lost through sweat

This means that recovery meals and snacks must contain carbohydrate (fuel), some protein (for muscle repair and/or gains) and fluids to replace sweat losses.

Having a meal or snack within the first hour of finishing a game or training session can help accelerate recovery. Players should have these snacks ready to go so they don’t rely on the venue to provide a suitable snack (which often only sell pies and lollies!). Some recovery snack suggestions include:

  • Fruit salad + yoghurt + fluids
  • A salad roll/wrap + fluids
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Tetra pack of low fat flavoured milk
  • Cheese and crackers

Some suggestions for a recovery meal include:

  • Baked beans/spaghetti on toast
  • Pasta with a low-fat bolognaise sauce
  • Rice with a low-fat tomato-based chicken curry
  • Thai noodle salad with lean beef + fluids
  • Grilled chicken breast with potato + veggies
  • Jacket potato with low-fat fillings

Rehydration is important after exercise and it is important to monitor fluid losses after a game or training session. If a game finishes late at night, be sure to get some some fluid in after the game but also remember to keep hydrating in the morning after. This will help to prevent multiple pee stops at night and allow a restful night’s sleep (also important in recovery).