I’m about to say something slightly controversial…..
ANYBODY can be a coach.
Coaching….let’s be honest….is just telling people what to do. There is an art to the telling, but what we achieve is not magic. More crucially, success in coaching depends on a willing, enthusiastic, talented – or all of the above – player/team. Players who are able to absorb new ideas and take on board advice.
We are not magicians.
What makes a great coach?
1. Someone who is there for the long term
I should clarify. Anybody can be a coach, in a one-off situation.
It is the easiest thing in the world, to take charge for one session, point to every positive moment, and ascribe them to your expertise….without ever putting these “gains” under scrutiny.
The more you coach, the more colleagues you will come across, with an uncanny ability to attach themselves to success. Unfortunately, this type of coach almost always distances themselves from all instances of failure. The children are “too” this, “too” that. “They seem to have”, “they haven’t remembered”…..
This is unacceptable. In the coaching profession, your job is to take responsibility for good and bad. Put down long term structures, that will have lasting success, but over time. Wait until you know this represents a permanent improvement, before you begin extolling your own virtues to everyone who will listen.
Don’t make coaching about yourself. Let other coaches have input, and keep players at the heart of the process. Keep your ego under control.
2. Caring about the “hows” as well as “whats”
Coaches like to discuss the different little tricks in their locker. A fielding drill that gets the best out of their group, or batting activity that allows anyone to unlock their potential.
There is a library of activities available to help you raise standards. However, the greatest drill in the world will not automatically improve your group’s on-field results. What really matters is:
- Your input and feedback: providing the correct technical hints, at the right time, and giving each player the inner confidence to commit to the drill. The best car in the world still needs the best driver. Don;t just rely on the activity to do its thing.
- A true understanding: why do we perform this skill in a certain way. Why is a certain positioning, or style, good for us to use in the long run. Otherwise, in all likeliness, they will do it the correct way in training, and any old way in a match.
In other words, the “hows”, not the “whats”! For training field to be seen on the pitch, ability is only half the challenge, Each player needs the intrinsic motivation, to do the right thing, for its own sake.
3. Bringing everyone along…not just the good ones!
How can we achieve this. Is it possible to make a young cricketer really want to do things in the recommended way?!
- CONSTANT positive reinforcement – as important as technique, is a hunger to keep trying, and an optimistic approach. As a coach, your interventions can nurture this. In particular after a mistake is made, what matters is your response. Will you get back on track? Can you recover from a setback? Can you keep everyone looking forwards, not backwards.
- Set group goals – even when you are working on individual skills, create a team spirit. Struggling players may play with more freedom, when an experienced teammate is alongside them (and reduced pressure on themselves). Their performance (and pride in performance) can often be dragged upwards.
- Judge long term consistency – try gauging success in ways other than an arbitrary target, eg/ “we must take 10 catches in a row”. try, “let’s try and set our personal best for catches”. Or set a higher target, but give the group 3 lives. the odd failure or misstep is going to happen. There is no shame in admitting it! You can change their perspective, and reaction to mistakes, by setting suitable goals.
- Focus on the quality of the process – in order to enjoy the glory moments, you’ll have to be applying yourself to the (many more) routine moments as well. Try and find a player to praise who has quietly gone about their business….doing the right thing every ball without particularly standing out.
4. Keeping things fun (it’s more than a cliche)
How many times do you hear coaches imploring their groups, “you are fielding for 90% of a cricket match, you have to enjoy it”. True….but if this is to happen, your coaching has to reinforce this statement.
A collective spirit is key to this enjoyment. Try to create an atmosphere where the whole group gathers momentum from any one player’s success. A round of “high fives”, when somebody takes an amazing catch in training, is great for bonding a team. Rewarding players who praise their teammates is crucial….these are the players who will drag a struggling team back into the game. Get those good moments sticking in the mind!
There is a misconception that sporting drills have to be constantly fast/intense/serious. But cricket involves a lot of space between balls, overs, innings. Players need to learn how to cope with these gaps as well. A more important quality for a player is learning WHEN to turn the intensity on and off.
Cricket is supposed to be fun. Even during a serious session, it doesn’t hurt to lighten the mood a little.