A sport that is enjoying sustained expansion at grassroots and elite levels, netball represents a growth area for the application and analysis of performance data. As the sport continues to develop on and off the court, Catapult technology has recently been adopted by England Netball as the organisation seeks to advance the way it manages and monitors athlete performance.
Ranked third in the International Netball Federation (INF) rankings, England Netball use Catapult T6 units to collect and analyse inertial data during training sessions and matches. The devices are Catapult’s smallest yet, designed to be less restricting but still collecting an average of 1,000 data points per second. England Netball use the T6 units in conjunction with Catapult’s intelligent software to boost performance, reduce risk of injury and validate return to play following rehabilitation.
We recently visited the England Roses’ training centre in Loughborough to see how that information is being applied to inform programmes and adapt match preparation to the specific needs of players.
One of the main benefits of analysing athlete movement in netball is the ability to better understand in-game demands and ensure that training prepares players for the specific physical requirements of competition. This is something that England Netball are doing across each phase of their pathway to build training programmes that replicate the physicality required to beat the world’s best.
“I think the most important data that we use from Catapult is about replicating international competition,” says Tracey Neville, England’s Head Coach. “I think what’s been really challenging and really exciting for the Roses is how we are developing a catalogue of practices and sessions that we know actually marry up with what the girls do at international level and that is so important to be able to push through our pathway and get our girls ready for international competition.”
Inertial information is particularly valuable in netball given the high numbers of jumps and changes of direction players perform during matches and training sessions. Through their use of Catapult, England Netball have been able to come to a more thorough understanding of the physical load players experience at the elite level, breaking that information down by position to see how demands vary by role.
“Netball is full of high intensity movements, so that’s a key marker we look at,” says Katie Denton, a Sports Scientist with England Netball. “They spend their time changing direction and jumping up in the air, so we’re looking at how many movements they make in a game and how much physical expense that takes off a player because it can be quite draining. The bonus with Catapult is that you can really break it down into different positions because there are obviously a lot of different positional requirements.”
The collection and analysis of physical data is one step towards a more objective approach to performance, but player engagement is key if that information is to have a tangible impact on the court. By ensuring that players buy-in to the technology and are educated around the importance of sports science, England Netball are creating a high-performance culture that engages stakeholders across the organisation and encourages engagement and open communication around team and player performance.
“Each week we have a meeting with our sports science team and they feedback all the data we receive from each session,” explains Jodie Gibson, a current England international. “When we wear the devices, we look at how intense our sessions have been in relation to international games. So we use information to make sure our sessions are at the same intensity and the same level as when the girls are playing against the top nations like Australia and New Zealand.”