Spilling the Juice with… the Vitality Roses

Jaffa has proudly sponsored The Vitality Roses, England Netball’s senior team, since 2019.

We started spreading #JaffaJoy as the Roses’ Official Fruit Partner at the 2019 INF Netball World Cup in Liverpool. We had lots of fun playing on-court games at half-time and giving away Jaffa citrus fruit and orange juice! We were also at the 2020 Vitality Nations Cup in London spreading fun and positivity.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in the UK, we have worked together to provide fun content for our followers on social media. The Roses have been sharing Jaffa recipes and workouts to help keep everyone fit and healthy.

Carry on reading to get the lowdown on the Vitality Roses’ squad, their pre-game rituals and their top tips for amateur netballers. Thank you to Sophie Drakeford-Lewis and Kira Rothwell for sharing their tips, tricks and insights with us!

Check out the England Netball website to find out more about the Vitality Roses and their upcoming games, or to find a local netball team to join!

How many players are in the Vitality Roses squad?

There are 24 athletes in the Vitality Roses squad and 8 in the Roses Futures squad.

The squads are selected each summer for the following international season. Scouts watch matches throughout the season to find England’s greatest netballing talent.

The Vitality Roses squad includes ladies who play club netball around the world. Some of us play in the UK’s Vitality Netball Superleague whilst others play in Australia’s Suncorp Super Netball league.

Our coaches select teams of 12-14 players before all International Tournaments. The team formation changes depending on who we’ll be playing against and factors that we can’t control like injuries.

We also have a Roses Under-21s squad and a Roses Academy squad. The girls in these squads generally play in the UK’s Netball Performance League (NPL) or in the National Schools netball league.

We look for girls with great promise and technical ability to join these teams. The path isn’t always straight forwards, though. Many of the girls experience setbacks and rejection in the early years of their netball careers.

Resilience and motivation are key to achieving a place in the Vitality Roses squad!

What is life like as a netball player in the Roses Under-21s squad and the Roses Academy squad?

We train together one weekend a month. We’re lucky to receive coaching from some of the best coaches in UK netball. We also have a team of Strength and Conditioning coaches, physiotherapists and nutritists who support us.

Roses Academy teams can play internationally from the age of 16. We start our international careers at Netball Europe. As we get older we have the chance to travel further afield. The most recent cohort of the Roses Academy have traveled as far as Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica and Botswana on tour!

The fun of playing and travelling comes at a price. The Roses Academy players train at least once most days (with one designated rest day a week). Over a week we will usually complete three resistance training sessions, three on-court sessions, shooting or ‘wall work’, recovery sessions and matches!

It takes dedication and a lot of hard work to get selected for the Academy Roses squads. We have to be 100% commited to our training, but the reward of playing with an amazing team and representing our country is incredible.

What does the Vitality Roses coaching squad look like?

We have a coaching team of 15 people. Ten people work with the Vitality Roses squad and five of our coaches focus on the Roses development squads.

Jess Thirlby has been the Vitality Roses Head Coach since July 2019. She stepped into this role after a long and illustrious career as an elite international netballer and netball coach. She is supported day-to-day by our Assistant Coach, Colette Thomson.

The Vitality Roses coaching team also includes a performance director and performance analyst, physiotherapist, chief medical officer, strength & conditioning coach, nutritionist and a lifestyle advisor. They all work tirelessly to ensure we perform at our best each time we play.

How do you prepare your minds and bodies for a game?

We focus on ensuring that we are well fuelled and rested for each upcoming game.

The day before a match we walk through our game plan. We’re all encouraged to share our last-minute thoughts or worries with each other.

We have a large meal two hours before each game. The meal includes all the carbohydrates and protein that our bodies will need during the game. We also take on lots of liquids during this time to ensure we’re well hydrated before we start playing.

Each player has a different pre-game routine. Some of the team like to go for a walk whilst others will always have a pre-game coffee. Some of us even like to take a quick power nap!

Our coaches recognise that we are all unique. It’s important that we all do what our bodies and minds need to ensure that when game time comes, we are raring to go!

Can you share any tips to help amateur netballers prevent netball-related injuries?        

The best thing you can do to prevent injuries is to work as hard on your strength, conditioning and pre-hab exercises as you do on the court. Gym work, warm-ups, cool-downs and stretching aren’t always as fun as playing netball itself. But it’s important to include these activites in your training plan if you want to become a strong and resilient athlete.

How much do you analyse your opposition’s playing style, strengths and weaknesses before a game?

Our coaching team and players analyse our opponents extensively before every game. We look at video footage of them playing and match statistics to learn about their playing style, strengths and weaknesses.

If we have played against them before we analyse our performance and theirs to look for ways to improve this time around. We also analyse their more recent games to understand their current combinations, preferred set plays and to see where we can expose them.

It’s very important that we understand our opposition and our game plan will include strategies to expose their weaknesses. But it’s also important to acknowledge the strengths within our own team and to focus on what we can control.

Our game plans combine tactics that will enhance our team’s strengths with strategies to beat our opponents.

How much do the strengths and weaknesses of your opposition influence the selection of the Vitality Roses team?

Our coaching team will consider the playing styles of players in the opposition team when they’re deciding on our starting seven. But they also think about our own squad’s strengths and the combinations of players that they know will work well.

They make their final decision using a combination of insight into our opposition and knowledge of our own strengths.

Do you have any rituals you go through as a team before a match to get yourselves pumped up?

We always have music playing in the changing room when we are preparing for a game and we’ll often have a dance to help us relax!

Jess will give us a short pre-match briefing before we leave the changing room to start our warm-up. She reinforces the key elements of our game plan and then she’ll hand over to the Captain.

The Captain’s job is to bring us together as a squad. She might set us a team challenge or give us little gifts.

Once we’re pumped up and raring to go, our physio always takes a ‘changing room team picture’ of us all! We’ve developed this ritual over the years and it has become our way of getting ourselves mentally prepared for the game ahead and united as a squad.

What final tips can you share for amateur players who are facing a big game, or know they need to change the momentum of a game going into the second half?

Trust the game plan and work as a team. Sart together and finish together.

Thanks to our friends at Rookies Netball Club, based in Cambridgeshire, for providing the questions for this blog post!