Developing a taste for Gateball in Victoria

Over the weekend of December 10 and 11, 2022, we held the first Gateball Development Weekend for Victoria at Brunswick Malletsports Club.  The course was hosted by the new Gateball High Performance Manager Philip Brown.  The purpose of the day was both simple and difficult all at once:  get better at Gateball.  Overall, we think we achieved the goal and had plenty of fun along the way to boot!

We had 12 players from five clubs attend the weekend, including visitors from regional Victoria and from South Australia.  The players had very different levels of skills, too.  There were some absolute beginners, some solid players and some of the best players in the country.

Saturday was the skills carnival.  We started the morning with basic skills and progressed into more advanced topics as the day continued.  First up were the seminal requirements for Gateball: hitting and sparking.  There’s a clear need in Gateball to control the strength of the shot and the direction of the shot at the same time.  It’s easy to say, but harder to do.  We practised placing all 5 balls in a cluster near the goal pole, then sparking each one agari. This helps you to proactively plan your shots as a cohesive turn.  It requires you to think ahead for where you want your ball to be – but then also react when, inevitably, your ball isn’t quite where you wanted it to finish.  So you go back to drawing board and think through what to do next.

We handed over to two local coaches from Kew for a session on sliding.  Clare and David discussed different techniques for envisioning the slide before you play and showed how to use the slider guider.  David and Clare emphasised the need to think of short slides as well as long cross-court ones.

We ran a version of the excellent Think Like a Captain course developed by John and Penny Park before lunch.  This is a series of exercises and scenarios designed to help players understand what their captain might ask them to do and, more importantly, why. The course also focuses on what players can do to assist their captains – things like tracking their own ball’s score and knowing where the next opposition ball is.   

After a delightful shared lunch in Brunswick’s lovely clubhouse, we spent the early afternoon looking at some basics of refereeing.  The participants heard the ideas behind the Referee A and Referee B system, including the need for the refereeing team to watch the ball and the target closely at all times.

The final exercise was decision making as a captain.  We looked at various scenarios of balls on a court and discussed which tactics are best in those circumstances.  It’s a great way to ease a player into the ideas behind captaincy without the pesky 10 second counts that happen in a real game…

Speaking of real games, the Sunday was devoted to putting our newly-learned skills into action.  Unfortunately, a non-Gateball-related sprained ankle and some COVID protocols robbed us of some attendees.  Never-the-less, the group played some doubles, triples and larger games to cap off an enjoyable – and instructive – weekend.

Philip Brown, Gateball High Performance Manager