Practical ways to excel at Gateball while helping your team captain

Try and remember the location of balls. There are steps to accomplishing this feat. Firstly, try and remember where your ball, your next team ball and the next opposition ball are located. At a minimum, every player should be aware of where their next team ball and the next opposition ball are located. If you can extend this out to the two following team balls and opposition balls that’s great. Eventually you will remember where all balls are located. Help your captain by mentioning significant ball positions like “the next ball is coming on” or “7 is in corner 3”

Have a couple of options in your head about what you are likely to be called to do. Do not get your mind locked into one play. If the 8 second count is called before you receive an instruction, just play what seems obvious to you

Identify opportunities before your turn and if you see any opportunities you think your captain may not have noticed, have a quiet word when they are not busy. You won’t get a discussion on the matter and a concentrating captain may just make a minimal acknowledgement.

Eyes on your side of the court. If the captain is on the other side of the court and you can see that a slide or gate touch is coming, let your captain know

Identify balls that can attack after a gate pass. Players may notice that a ball coming through a gate has a potential to attack team balls. Let your captain know.

Beware of always attempting bombards. Bombards are not always the best tactic, if it misses, the outball may be in a great position to set up a slide or build a ladder.

Creating outballs.  Remember that it is often a good idea to spark balls that have not been through a gate on one side of the court to be made an outball on the opposite side.

How tight to the line? For a really defensive ball you may be asked to play in a ball that just touches the line. For a ball that is touchable by another ball from your team you may need to play it in a bit further. Try to predict or establish which is required. Your own understanding of strategy will help.

Attack or Defence? Players are sometimes lured by an easy gate, when the best tactic is to spark or slide a ball to attack the opposition. Be careful not to have your mind set on running a gate and then have to reset when you are asked to do something different.

Building a bridge All too often balls can be carelessly played into position for this tactic. Your captain might find it hard to identify an exact spot so you should know the capabilities of the team member who will be called on to use the bridge, ladder or chain. On some occasions a captain may call you to use a touched opposition ball to build a chain or ladder so don’t be surprised by this option.

Practice sparks and strokes near gates Make sure you try some sparks when your ball is jammed on a gate leg or too close to another ball. Be able to spark right and left-handed if this makes a difference to your ability to spark a ball. Balls that end up touching through the actions of other players can be a bonus. As a player you can ask if they are touching. If the referee says they are, you can play your ball away from the other ball and a touch is called.

Be aware of sliding possibilities.  Your perspective on the game may enable  you to see slides that your captain cannot. If you can see the intention of the next few shots you are supposed to play, you will be able to carry out your slide more effectively. If you are unable to read your captain’s mind, think while you are playing to make your turn more effective. Every touch you make should be a decision as to whether the touch should be straight, to the left or right.

Think about direction and weight when stroking. Players often understand the target their captain has asked them to aim for but go too long and even out of the field! Always think about  the direction and weight of a stroke or spark. Be aware of the possible consequences if you go too far. Sometimes they may be positive but other times they may be negative.

Line up sparks for your team On other occasions when bombards are being undertaken, a team player often moves in line and calls, “heel” or “toe” to assist with lining up. Do remember there is limited time to do this. Another occasion when it helps to line up is when a player is being called to spark onto the Goal Pole or through a Gate.

Be aware of the questions you can ask a referee as a player Players can ask referees a limited number of questions which the captain cannot ask on their behalf. Know the rules so you can ask, for example if:  a ball has fully crossed through a gate,  whether a ball you are about to stroke or spark will score a gate or is touching the court area when you are creating an outball or if two balls are touching when you start your turn.

At the end of a game be aware of the time and whether you need to be quick or use all the time available. As a player you can remind your captain how much time is left but don’t let the opposition know. Keep checking your watch as the time runs down. Sometimes your team will be a point or two behind and there may be a big scoring chance in a turn or two. On the other hand if your team is in the lead your captain may look for plenty opportunities to touch other balls and spark so scoring opposition balls do not get a chance to play. In the haste to get to a team scoring ball you may be asked just to “tap your ball on the head.” Make every effort to understand if you need to play as quickly as you possibly can or not.

Piling on the points at the end of the game is really important. For most of the game you will probably have been encouraged not to spark balls through gates but at the end of a game it is on for one and all.

Playing hero shots If you are in the team which is behind on points, be ready for your captain to call aggressive shots that normally you would not expect to make. There is nothing to lose with the final shots in a game if your team is behind.