If you were to categorize the qualities of [edit: most] new players that [edit: may make them, generally, seem like a] new player, you could break it down into a pretty simple list:
- They don’t have enough stickers on their bike
- They can’t yet shoot/pass
- They have zero court awareness
It’s that last point that I’d like to talk about a little bit here (it’s why the last point is bolded, you see. I planned that.)
Having court awareness is a really important element of the game and likewise does quite a bit to accelerate your abilities within it. Now I’ve framed this solely as a “new player” problem, but the truth is any player can have this problem, so keep reading even if you imagine yourself to be anything but a newer player.
Court awareness is, simply, the ability to know where you are in relation to court dimensions and elements (other players, goals, etc.). Court awareness is what allows you to both be in the right spot and avoid slamming into a wall when looking behind your shoulder. It’s what keeps you from accidentally crashing into another player.
What I experienced when first learning the game was a sort of tunnel vision: I’d put my head down to look at the ball and that would be the only thing I could think of. I’d run into walls, into other players, and into the cones we were using at the time for goals. I felt like a dummy.
While that dummy feeling hasn’t left, my ability to judge where I am on the court while depending on my peripheral vision has certainly expanded. I suggest just a few things to help you gain/maintain this ability anywhere you find yourself playing:
- Try using other objects to judge your position: try looking over your shoulder or to your side while pedaling down court. use the entrance/a post/a line on the court to help you know when you’re approaching the wall.
- Practice looking away from the ball when you’re controlling it: this is good for many reasons, but in this case it’s good to become used to not focusing on the ball at all times when it’s yours. practice looking up and around until you can do it for longer periods of time. This prevents you from crashing into a defender or losing the ball when you take a long view around the court.
- Try to listen to people as much as seeing them. Learn to feel the change in your ears (I am not even kidding) when someone is behind you. The way your ear picks up noise changes when a mass is around them, and learning to detect those subtle chances can make you seem preternatural in your ability to detect approaching players.
Taking the blinders off yourself while playing can help you get out of problematic situations before they start, as court awareness also makes you aware of the potential moves of other players. So next time you’re on the court, give a little thought to becoming comfortable with court position (instead of becoming comfortable with sudden trauma to your person).