“Games Within A Game”: Triangle Drill. 4 different takes on a coaching classic!


stancesAll coaches have their “go-to” drills – basically, an activity they continually come back to. One that consistently gets results or a guaranteed buzz from the group!

However, familiarity can breed contempt. And a good drill can become dry if over-relied on. This problem strikes at the heart of a key challenge for all coaches. How can you convince children (or adults) to perform drills that are good for them, without losing their interest.

One useful tactic is creating variations on your games….or “games withing a game”. By simply changing the emphasis a bit, adding a competitive element, or using incentives, you can sometimes trick players into doing what’s good for them.

“Games Within a Game” no.1: The Triangle Drill

The triangle drill is a cricket coaching staple! Most cricketers have done it at some point in their lives. 

It is such a useful drill because it ticks two key boxes for coaches – a) keeping a whole group involved, and b) covering multiple fielding skills in one go. But nevertheless, it can get dry after a while.

Basic Triangles

Just in case you’ve never seen the triangle drill before, this is how it goes! The aim is to improve a fielding team’s throwing accuracy and backing up.

triangle drill diagram

Mini Triangles

Divide the groups up into 2 or 3 teams (4-6 players in each).

In mini-triangles, your team’s aim is to get all your player’s back to their start point

Instead of “following their throw”, players stay at their station (simply going to the back of their own queue) until one of the team hits a stump.

When this happens, EVERY PLAYER moves to the next station – in a clockwise direction.

How to win

The winning team is the one to:

a) complete a designated number of hits – about 10 is a good number

b) to get their group back to their start point – ie/ 1 “team lap”

c) complete a designated number of laps

Point Triangles

Set up a regulation triangle drill….but with one slight change! In front of the keeper’s stumps, make a semi circle (radius about 3-4m) out of cones.

NO GO ZONEWe call this semi-circle the “No Go Zone”. All throwers must prevent the ball from bouncing inside the semi-circle.

This rule is in place to force fielders to TAKE CARE when they throw – avoiding “half-volley” throws to the keeper at all costs.

SCORING: Points are awarded/deducted for the following:

Stump hit = 5 points

Completed lap (no large errors) = 3 points

Ball lands in semi-circle (No go Zone) = minus 3 points

Optional scoring

Ball goes under hands/through legs = minus 3 points

Ball goes over boundary/hits perimeter wall or fence = minus 3 points

Impressive stop (eg/ when ball deflects off stumps) = 3 points

Hesitation (eg/ everyone stops when stump is hit) = minus 3 points

Berating a teammate = minus 5 points

RACE TO A SET NUMBER OF POINTS (EG/ 35). Measure them by time or by “laps” (number of times the ball has completed a circuit of the drill)

Two-team Triangles

Instead of lumping every player into a single group, create two rival teams.

This often works well as a “toss decider” for a match. The winning team’s captain will get to decide whether they bat or bowl first.

Safety in numbers! – this helps emphasize the need to work as a team, and a collective goal.


a) Give each team 3 minutes – to score as many stump hits/laps/points as possible

b) Give each team a points target – for example time how many minutes and seconds to get to 35 points?

Optional extras

  • DISTRACTION – eg/ players are allowed to put off the other team during the last minute

Reverse Triangles

Have you ever noticed that players always perform the triangle drill in a clockwise direction? Why not flip it round?

We don’t always turn left to throw, do we? Nor do we always run to out right to back up?

At any point of the drill, the coach shouts “REVERSE!”. When this happens, the ball will travel anti-clockwise instead of clockwise.

For this to happen, the backing up group must switch to a new cone. A new cycle can resume from whichever station had the ball when “reverse” was called!

reverse triangles

The coach can shout “REVERSE”, whenever they like, and however many times they like!!

Find out more…



Following trends: Out with the old, in with the new? Can’t we have both?

profileCricketers, coaches, spectators, commentators – all of us are shaped by trends. Everybody is eager to emulate the success of pioneers. The people who re-invent the game with new shots, deliveries, fielding exploits and strategies. 

Of course, we innovators. They are drivers of positive change in our game.  They keep the game fresh. Nobody wants to be stuck with under-arm bowling, uncovered pitches. We benefit hugely from science and modernism, both in performance and safety in cricket (thankfully, those calling for the days without helmets are fast-fading).

However, are we sometimes too quick to cast out the old methods. Are some principles fundamental? In a rush to stay with the latest trend, are we in danger of inconsistency, lurching from theme to theme?

We like to think that we are more independent than ever. But in fact, coaches are as influenced by group thinking as anybody else.

Theory shifts in cricket

Academia has long accepted this upheaval and renewal, as part of the process of learning. Surely, in cricket, we witness the same transitions. 

Stage 1: The outlier

A player bursts spectacularly onto the scene, with an eccentric new technique. This new approach brings him/her great success at first, but is met with scepticism. Will they be “found out”?

Stage 2: The revolution

This player proves him/herself to the general public. As soon as they are declared the “next big thing”, coaches and players all flock to copy this approach.

Eventually, enough people are making a success of the new method, proving that this can be a way forward.

Stage 3: The “brand of cricket”

A generation of players are brought up into this new world. Everybody wants to ape the style of the new heroes. Many go on to prominence. Others falls short.

But the goalposts have changed….the masses are working towards the newly perceived idyll. The previous norms are suddenly highly unfashionable.

Stage 4: The renewal

Another cricket bursts onto the scene, again challenging previously held notions of what is and isn’t possible.

The cycle repeats itself. The new paradigm (system of thought) is ushered in, and the old discarded – even ridiculed as backward.

What is today’s coaching paradigm?

manhat 1
As a coach, you have to weigh up different approaches, and find the best path.

And is the change always for the better. The answer is: yes and no!

In the present day, certain dominant modes of thought influence the way we coach, and the themes we cover. Each year, we are encouraged to keep with the times, by operating in a certain way. There are arguments for them, but counter-arguments are worth considering.

  • ACTIVE, “FAST-PACED” SESSIONS – children have shorter attention spans, and need continuous stimulation….in the form of changing activities. Following this helps give energy and excitement to your sessions. Children are motivated, and look forward to the next week.
    BUT….are we dodging the fact that improved skill involves dedication, and single-minded focus? At some point, other virtues (patience among others) will become more important.
    Perhaps this method is a stepping stone, to keep children engaged until they are willing to apply themselves. Perhaps it is setting a culture where they will never acquire the qualities of patience (needed in training and matches). Is this a ticking time-bomb?
  • ALL-ROUND BATTING GAME – reverse-sweeps, switch-hits, scoops, shots to keep the batter on top. Emphasis on always looking to dominate. It is brilliant that players are now emboldened to try all the shots in the book.
    BUT….these shots are built on foundations. Solid principles such as balance and still head. Is there a danger of teaching players to walk before they can crawl?
    Also, learning to pick and choose these skills is as important than knowing how to execute them. This requires a reading of the game. Often you will see players using these shots “for their own sake” (ie/ no legitimate reason to use them. Played almost out of short attention span than judgment).
  • ATHLETIC, DYNAMIC FIELDING – diving catches, team catches and covering more ground than ever before. All of these abilities have elevated the discipline to new levels. It is fantastic to see the limits of possibility redefined, to the point where outrageous feats become essential, then almost routine!
    BUT….when the ball goes straight to you, sometimes “less (movement) is more”. Principles such as composure and relaxation – once paramount to close-fielders in the traditional age – can be forgotten….totally emitted from coaching routines.
    How many times do you see young cricketers dive for no reason, or over-react to catches right at them? They have been conditioned to always move, not to stay still.





Following trends: finding the right way for each young player

profileEarlier this year, I have been forced into an awkward position. Two young players, who I’ve known for a long time, needed some urgent changes to their game, having unfortunately completely misunderstood the message from a previous coach. 

This coach happened to to be a COUNTY PLAYER for several years….

Finishing the job

This was a strong lesson, that no matter how elite the player, however advanced the methods, communication is everything. Advising a change is only 10% of the job. Ensuring that it endures, relies on TOTAL UNDERSTANDING from the player.

This part is often side-stepped….and in this case, simple hadn’t happened.

As it happened, the problem was that this coach’s message was valid. He had just not bothered to put it into context. The boys in question had been told to keep their hands higher, but instead were clutching their hands to their bodies. The result was that they were constantly missing, or chipping the ball straight upwards….and had genuinely no idea why.

After the initial annoyance, there was a question. How to get your new point across, without undermining confidence in a colleague (fellow coaches shouldn’t be throwing each other under the bus!)? There were 2 options:

  1. GO IN HARD – proclaim that the other coach was wrong. Drastically change the player’s technique. Give them a solution, that will improve their game, proving the other coach was wrong.
    RESULT: improved technique, but at a cost.
  2. SOFT APPROACH – try to understand the cause of this misunderstanding. Explain to the players that “your coach is right, only if you….as well”.
    RESULTS: same improved technique, but without undermining a colleague.

I always wonder if – had the roles been reversed – I’d have been given the same courtesy….

How to solve challenging situations: and avoid confusing players

IMG_1316Previously, I raised the subject of coaching trends, considering how to apply the latest cutting edge methods, and when to introduce them for maximum effect. 

It is correct that players should be introduced to the whole range of shots, balls and styles that are available. But remember, this takes time. Avoid the following:

INCONSISTENT COACHING – Sometimes coaches lurch from theme to theme. We are teaching advanced skills and approaches, but not filling in the gaps – how and when to use them.

When a game comes around – and quite naturally, this new shot doesn’t come off – the new advice (play sensibly) can directly contradict what came before. We see this frequently while coaching running between the wickets….a player will be told to be “more positive” between the wickets, then “you shouldn’t have run that time”, when they mistakenly run on the very next ball.

Especially when learning cutting edge techniques, the basic principle (balance/setup/movement) that underpin them can be lost. It helps to layer your sessions, making sure that players grow each with each phase. 

Also add the decision-making element. These skills are not useful if learned in isolation, abstracted from the real-life game situation. The result is often that they will play these shots, or use variations spontaneously. Teach player not only to use them, but apply them properly.

COACHING CLASHES – often coaches can be guilty of undermining each other. When you attempt to take a player in a completely different direction, it can lead to confusion.

a) Know what input previous coaches have had.

b) Think about whether you will be clashing with previous advice.

b) Compliment their coaching (if possible)….rather than simply confuse the player.

Even if you want to undo everything from your predecessor, it is better to find common ground.

“ONE SIZE FITS ALL” COACHING – A profession that should be a tapestry of different methods, techniques and style end up getting homogenized. 

Now that players at the elite level talk about, “brand of cricket”, so much, there is a sense that players are flocking towards the same style. The art of understanding your own game is being removed, in favor of self-expression.

As said before, the real skill is not the shot itself, but appropriate use. We are teaching cricket intelligence. Players need a method. And for some, it means not whipping out all the skills as soon as possible.

And finally….


The most dangerous of them all! It’s a confidence trick. An easy way to immunize yourself from failure. 

If things go well, you can take the praise. If they don’t, easy….shift the blame back onto the player. They didn’t follow the advice properly.

Most coaches most prone to this have one thing in common. They avoid work with beginners. If you jump straight to the higher level, complacency can set in. You will never pick up diverse communication techniques: turns of phrase, metaphors and selected vocabulary, that can help you get through to all types of personality.

They focus on the “what” to do, and give less time to “how” to do it.

Cricketers with potential are vulnerable to having their games fundamentally altered by coaches….and not always for the better. Coaches (especially in 1-2-1’s) are in a powerful position. If you are making radical changes to a player’s game, make sure you finish the job. Make sure they come out with a:

TOTAL UNDERSTANDING of the reasoning behind your coaching. Any lesson must be put into its context. If they are just being told what to do, they run the risk of misunderstanding

TOTAL COMMITMENT from the player. You can;t just ask them to do something, just because other people do it.




GAMES FOR UNDERSTANDING: cricket penalties

“Cricket Penalties” is a game I have invented to promote the following skills in young players:

  • BOWLING TO A TARGET – eg/ not necessarily at the stumps. This game emphasizes that a) sometimes it is better to aim outside the stumps, and b) wherever you bowl, aiming and driving to that target is essential
  • DEFENDING – the concept of “stopping a penalty” can encourage batter to be watchful, and make sure the ball comes right to their bat
  • BODY MOVEMENT – proving how important it is to move into line with a ball, and avoid dangling the bat away from your body
  • SHOT SELECTION – picking which balls can be attacked and which have to be defended








swiss u11


Calming the volcano!

On top of their large list of existing roles – mentor, educator, first-aider, entertainer, etc. – sports coaches often have to be diplomats as well!

worm 2Two feuding children. Cliques within groups. Children with different expectations for the session. Vulnerable children, with difficulties that their peers do not understand. Clashing personalities. All of these can make your sessions that extra bit challenging. Some you will be able to eliminate, but other you will have to simply reduce the impact….and stay constantly vigilant to make sure they does not resurface.

The world of business often supports “nudge theory” – the belief that taking care of small differences will provide a catalyst for large scale cultural change. Using nudge theory as inspiration, I have created the “Dormant Volcano” theory of cricket coaching.

How can you safely avoid and limit arguments, frictions and confusion, to prevent an “eruption”? Here are a few ideas.


The most common cause of big arguments are not sparked by one-off incidents. it is the build up of smaller incidents – that, in themselves, seem insignificant – that will get you. 

There is a reason that big arguments ignite out of nowhere. It is because resentment and friction has been bubbling under the surface for some time.

NIP THESE SMALL ARGUMENTS IN THE BUD…..before they blossom into something more major.

– PUT PLAYERS IN THE SAME TEAM – It doesn’t always work, but the ideal solution is trying to get these children working to the same goal. If they help each other to win a game, this can be a turning point. In past camps, some children who take an instant dislike to each other on day 1, end up best of friends on day 5. Sometimes it takes time
– TRY AND USE REASON – talk over the argument calmly, asking if the issue that is upsetting them really is worth it. Putting the disagreement into words, can often make players realize how trivial it actually is
– SEPARATE – as a last resort, you can always separate these children into different groups
– NEVER IGNORE IT – the longer someone gets annoyed, the more likely they will lash out in a way that they regret (not good for any party). Confront it early, to avoid this explosion.


This is a concept that many new coaches find hard to grasp. Sometimes, your session can appear to be going fantastically well for the majority of your group. Everybody seems is excited about the game and the atmosphere is frenzied and loud……

…..but remember:

  • this sort of activity lends itself to the ring-leaders of a group
  • quieter and less boisterous children can slip through the net (either lost in the crowd, and end up barely participating)
  • coaches need to be sensitive to the feelings of everybody, not just the majority

Sure, you can’t please everybody all of the time. But you can ALWAYS:

– Keep an eye out for every participant. Talking to them, making sure you are there in case they need anything. Even just asking a random question about their day, helps shier children to feel more engaged
– Make sure every player has equal opportunities (chances to bat/bowl). In a big game, keep everyone moving positions every once in a while. Or simply play a series of smaller games, to create that sense of involvement for all players. Divisions cricket is a favorite of mine for young players

When coaching holiday camps, I have found that having one “roaming” coach helps greatly, helping identify any child who may be feeling excluded or disengaged.

When we are engrossed in front line coaching, and the delivery, these details can evade us. By having somebody dedicated to looking at the wider picture, you will be able to spot the wider picture, or any developing problems.


If players are uncertain about what is going to happen next, they usually assume the worst. For example, “is this all we’re doing today?”, or, “aren’t we playing a match?” Uncertainty breeds suspicion. Reassure them, by outlining what is going to take place that hour/day.

Give them a broad picture of the plan, for the coming sessions. This often helps dispel worries that cricket practice will be “all drills”/”no matches”/etc.

It is always good to offer incentives (ie/ promise more game-based activities) further along the line. However, make it clear that these incentives are conditional on good behavior.

I frequently tell my groups that each stage of the session will “take as long as it takes”….by which i mean that I don’t intend to move on until the drill has been performed properly, with a certain degree of improvement.

This allows me to justify reducing game time, but also demonstrate that game time can also increase, if they fully cooperate and work together. The better the behavior, the more a coach can step back – allowing players to run their own activities more.