As mentioned in a previous blog. The challenges of running a net session are well known. That is why as a coach, it is always useful to have many different activities within nets….for example “Clock Cricket”!
Nets should ALWAYS have a purpose! At the very least, each bowler should go into a net session, with 1 or 2 specific points to work on. Without this focus, they can degenerate into chaos quickly!
Coaching discipline in the nets
How often have you seen a batter start poorly in the nets….then improve in the middle….only to throw all this out the window in the last 5mins? Why even practice if you are returning back to “square one” at the end?
Above all, players have to not only have one clear theme, but apply themselves to this theme consistently…..up to the very last ball! Nets don’t always have to be about technique! How about using the odd net session to work on STRATEGY and MENTALITY instead?
- Battling through difficult periods – where the bowler is on top of you – and not throw your wicket away
- Playing yourself into form, or “going through the gears” – each batter needs to find their own way of doing this
- Resorting to “Plan B”, when “Plan A” isn’t effective
- PERSEVERANCE! When something is working, keep doing it!!
All these are just as critical to success on the field as sound footwork and a smooth swing. Here are a couple of games i use to introduce the strategy and discipline.
GAME 1: Race to 5
The aim of this game is to make players THINK LONG TERM, and WORK FOR REWARDS. As young cricketers get older, I try to be much more sparing with praise – not just ball-by-ball compliments.
Encourage the idea that they have to “join them up” – ie/ produce a series of good balls or shots – before patting themselves on the back.
FOR THE BATTER TO SCORE A POINT….
Play 5 CONTROLLED SHOTS – a ball that hits the middle of the bat, stays low, and goes in the intended direction.
- Leaves and defensive shots are permitted, but do no score points. The aim of this is not to punish them, but to see leaves and defence as necessary, even essential….as you work towards a bigger target.
- If they play-and-miss, they have to start from zero again.
- If they get out, they lose one of their points.
- If they manage to keep an excellent ball down (for example, a pace ball that jumps up at them wildly, or a big-spinning ball), award them a point as well.
FOR THE BOWLER TO SCORE A POINT….
Bowl a straight over – with no wides!
- If they bowl a wide, they have to start over again!
- Set restrictions on wides according to each group/child’s ability.
- WICKET = bonus point.
- 2 WIDES IN A ROW = lose a point
GAME 2: The “Narna-Limit”
Incredible simple. How many balls can you bat for without losing patience? Balls faced, bowled, or fielded, without resorting to anything daft!
How long can you ignore the voice in your head, urging you to charge down the wicket/slog the spinner/bowl at 7000mph. When the rash shot or wild ball comes, reset the score to zero.
At the end of the session, everybody will have an official “Narna-Limit”: or in other words, the HIGHEST NUMBER OF BALLS they went without being silly!
**In this game is is IMPORTANT not to punish minor mistakes, only major errors in judgement or approach. For example, a play-and-miss could be down to a good ball, or slightly misjudging the line. This is entirely different to a random slog.
Players shouldn’t be discouraged for trying to do the right thing, only when they have done something wild.**
GAME 3: “What’s the plan?”
This isn’t original, but it is important to mention that players need to come up with their own strategies.
Asking them “what’s the plan?” helps you to get inside their thought process. This is where it gets interesting!
- Some players will stare blankly for you, for what feels like an eternity, waiting for the answer.
- Some players will shout either cliche at you – “hit top of off”, or, “full and straight” – or just a word such as “yorkers”, or “bouncers”.
- Some will say, “bowl round the wicket”….for no other reason than it is something different…..
- ….and some will look at the batter and look for weaknesses!
The whole point of this activity is getting the players to this stage – analyzing the batter! From here, you can help them to refine an effective plan.
Even for the youngest players, you can encourage them to think about plans. Even something as simple as “bowl outside off-stump to this batter instead”, count as a basic plan. They can bowl the same ball, but at a different angle.
For older players, you can introduce ideas such as “setting up” the batter. Most often, young cricketer’s plans are short term – “this ball will get them out”. By having plans as a theme, you can start thinking about the bigger picture….
- Sometimes being hit for 4 isn’t cause for big changes – stick with your plan if it has logic behind it
- Variations are most useful if they come by surprise – pick the right moments for them
- The best players need to be “worn down” – they won’t just throw it away!