Lurchers, fixaters, wafflers….which coach trope are you?

shankar battingCoaches are human. Humans have flaws. Therefore, coaches have flaws! 

Not that some would ever admit it….

Below are 9 coaching “tropes”, that I a) have witnessed in fellow coaches, b) am myself, or c) both of the above!

Points:

3 POINTS – if you think this flaw applies to you REGULARLY

1 POINT – if you think you do this OCCASIONALLY

**Don’t pretend you are immune to every one of these. You’re only lying to yourself! I gave myself 11 points!!**

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1. FIXATORS

Every coach has one minor aspect of the game they have a keen eye for. It irks us to the core when young players ignore it.

No matter what the stage or theme of the session is – if we see this happen we HAVE TO jump in and fix it.

Obviously, these are important points. But be wary how and when you communicate it. By banging on, your advice is likely to have the OPPOSITE effect. Players will grow resentful and not engage. Don’t overdo it! The last thing you want is the group to collectively sigh, “here we go again”.

Sometimes in coaching it is better to hold your tongue….even though you’re right!

2. LURCHERS

Player misses ball……”move to the ball more!!”…..player lunges at the next (wider, shorter) ball…..”wait for the ball more!!” Some amateur coaches have a talent for contradicting themselves every other sentence. 

Of all the categories here, this is one of the easiest to lapse into. It’s even a sign that you care. When a player makes a mistake, every part of your being wants to jump in and fix it.

But clarity is so important! Players need to go into training clear knowing what the goals are. If the goalposts change every 30 seconds, confusion reigns!

3. CONE LAYERS

You turn up to training, to be greeted by the sight of the entire village green LITTERED with cones. 

Props, stumps, throw-down lines and other plastic gadgets are meticulously laid ….the children arrive, and are immediately divided into equal teams. The activity is simple, formulaic, and offers no room for confusion (although I’m sure some will manage)!

It’s great to be prepared. But what is gained in superficial order, can be lost by the sessions being over-regimented. Everything relay style reduces the number of times each player performs the skill as well.

Looks good to parents on the sidelines, but may slow down their adapting skills unless you add a bit of randomness somewhere.

4. CATCH-PHRASERS

Always get to the pitch of the ball, while moving your feet. But remember to follow-through when you bowl. Be side-on….it won’t work if you’re not side-on. And don’t forget to back up. Is that elbow high by the way?

Many of these phrases are a new language. And just like any foreign language, meaning can be lost in translation. Even some children who have been playing for years, may not fully understand the implications of these phrases.

Use your other communication skills. Elaborate. Demonstrate. Show the “how” as well as the “what”. Go beyond the cliche.

5. JOSE MOURINHOS

In match coaches are all over club cricket. People who feel the need to micro-manage ever ball of the game. If they could implant a remote controlled chip into all 11 players, they’d actively consider it.

If you simply must (and remember, in-match coaching is banned from 12 upwards), pick your words, or moments, very wisely.

Worst case scenario: after giving advice, your player will be too determined to right the wrongs of the last ball, and forget that the next ball could be completely different.

Another common example: child hits ball, parent shouts at them to run, child end up blindly following, child ends up 5m short of his/her ground. “Crowd calling” accounts for 1000s of run out victims a year!!

At junior level, a defeat or failure needs to be treated as learning experience. Many team managers react almost as if the failure is a reflection on them….and can’t help intervening. Trying to shape every moment – Premier League manager style – will delay this learning, even if it improves results that day.

6. “I’M BETTER AT”…….ERS

Yes, so are all of us….what’s your point? Coaches should be evolving. And that means finding new skills, and ways to thrive in situations you find uncomfortable.

  • COMMON PHRASE 1: “I’m better at coaching the more experienced players”
  • COMMON PHRASE 2: “I’m better at front line coaching than admin”

Are you really? Or are you just avoiding difficult work?

Start printing your registers on time. Answering your emails and recording details. Learning catch phrases to help 4-5 year olds. Becoming more patient. Mucking in with the difficult tasks.

Perhaps colleagues are, “so good with the little ones” because they try harder. Not down to some innate skill. Confront the things that make you uncomfortable, and you’ll expand your skills – not stand still.

7. WAFFLERS

Monologues have a place in coaching. But make it interesting, or you’ll lose the crowd fast!!

In the effort to pack information in, the valuable coaching points can become lost in white noise. This happens frequently when a group of 3 or 4 coaches are addressing children together – every one of them keen to impart their own take on events.

Overkill is common. Topics can be exhausted. Silence can be better than the same point 50 times over. Many people’s Winston Churchill attempt comes across as Iaan Duncan Smith (football fans in 2002 will get the reference)….

Don’t be an Iaan Duncan Smith!

8. GRUDGE-HOLDERS

We all know that certain children can drive coaches up the wall! Trouble makers exist, and they can’t be allowed to run riot. But every session should begin with a clean slate. Try not to carry over the frustrations of last week’s session, into the current session.

One fact that is worth remembering – you are not the sole influence on every children’s behavior and mood. Children who are often told off in your session, are likely to suffer the same fate in school and other clubs. The constant reprimands can often give them a feeling that the world’s against them.

Don’t give them more evidence to feel aggrieved! try to be consistent with praise and criticism across the group.

9. “ONE MORE TIME” ERS

The opposite of grudge holding. Give too much rope, children eventually realize you are unlikely to follow through on a warning. 

Some children know they can exploit this, knowing that they can complain at any point. Some parents will simply take their son/daughter’s word over yours. This fear can put inexperienced coaches in an awkward position.

This was the longest, most difficult lesson I had to learn. Early in my career, I was sometimes too afraid of complaints. If the children weren’t happy customers all the time, I had failed. Even scarier, the prospect of dealing with an angry parent. This prevented me from doing what was right from time to time.

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SUMMARY

Add up your total score:

0 POINTS: don’t be silly. Next please….

1-5 POINTS: you are either real-life Mary Poppins – “practically perfect in every way” – or David Brent (The Office UK) – “severely deluded in practically every way”. I hope it’s the former! Work on the latter….

5-9 POINTS: you are the Crocodile Dundee of cricket coaching. Your magic stare calms the most hostile group into calmness. You can walk into anywhere, inspire them like Churchill and keep the patience like Gandhi.

Alternatively, you work in a private school!

10-18 POINTS: you are a good coach, with some great qualities. But you are still learning. The journey to enlightenment is a long one, child. try and find ways to cope with frustrations.

19-24 POINTS: you are very honest with yourself. This reflection is a great skill for all coaches (and one many more talented coaches do not possess).

You may have just started out, or be a reluctant volunteer, putting their hand up to make sure your child gets to play. There are ways you can improve. A few simple skills and activities would go a long way!

Remember, you are not alone! And this site has some examples of how to deal with the harder aspects of coaching cricket. 

25+ POINTS: really quite impressive! Thank you for taking time out of your busy super villain/Tory cabinet (apply as appropriate) schedule to read my blog. Coaching not for you….

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