4 “Golden Rules” of coaching

1. It’s not about you!

Coaching is the art of communicating important information for players. This can be as simple as a single key phrase, at the right moment. Coaching IS NOT a stage for me to perform on. Nor is it a place for me to demonstrate my breadth of cricket knowledge. 

Remember this, especially at all those moments you address the whole group. Sometimes that extra coaching point isn’t necessary. There will be another chance to add this or that detail. You don’t need to prove your knowledge with technical jargon every sentence.

Sometimes you just need to get people moving. Not every speech has to be like the dressing room scene from “Any Given Sunday”.

Think before you speak.

2. It’s not about you!!

Many coaches are desperate for a “prodigy” – somebody with huge talent, who they can steer to great things. Believe me, I would like this too. But coaches need to remember their job is to help everyone at a given session, not just nurturing the cream of the crop. 

I have seen too many group sessions where the coach is only interested in the 1 or 2 players “with potential”. These same coaches often neglect the needs of the wider group, who according to them “don’t want to be there”. People who do this ignore 2 crucial points:

  1. Anybody can have potential….if you give them a chance. And your job is to find it in everyone.
  2. Some players are reluctant to go through the ordeals needed to reach a higher level. Frustratingly for many coaches, the players with the most “natural” talent are often in this group.

The biggest challenge isn’t telling players how “important” a drill is. That’s easy.  The real skill lies in making them want to do them in the first place. This is where you need emotional intelligence, and a range of motivational techniques.

Simply telling players how important a certain drill is, doesn’t cut it. Saying “they don’t want to be there”, if they push back, is lazy and complacent. It’s your job to try and find a way.

Find a way to make motivation intrinsic….or you are wasting your time. 

3. It’s not about you!!!!

Academy match day! We enjoy these days in the calendar. It’s chance to get your teeth into some higher level coaching, and work with motivated, competitive players.

The series is poised delicately  at 1-1. A bit of friendly colleague “banter” has developed about who will win the decider. I brush this off with a smile, and a “it’s been really high quality so far”. I pretend it doesn’t bother me one bit who wins, “as long as everyone’s improving”,

Do you want to know a secret? I want my team to win EVERY BIT AS MUCH as them! The difference….I hide it slightly better.

We’re losing. Even worse, throwing away a dominant lead. Then disaster strikes. Nick – the last proven batter –  is run out by yards off a mis-field! Never run off a mis-field!! I can see the opposition manager grinning at the umpire’s end. “What other smug comments will I cop later”……I think (very childishly) to myself. But I don’t say it. And I’m quite sure my face doesn’t show it either.

Of course, it is stupid and wrong for me to even think this in the first place. I only admit this, because I am 100% sure I am not alone. The sheer number or spats and grudges we hear about over the season proves it. We’d be superhuman not to indulge in a little competitiveness. But processing it the right way is crucial.

If we lose, then so be it. We can use the defeat as a lesson to move forward with. Nobody has let me down. Mistakes are never terminal. There is always another game and innings to look forward to.

They say a brave man is still scared, but doesn’t succumb to fear. A good coach is frustrated, but stays even-keeled and consistent. I’m 90% (80…75 at least!) sure I do this most of the time.

4. It’s not about you!!!

We work long hours, get tired. Sometimes, all we crave is a glimmer of proof that it is all paying off. But as we all know, junior coaching doesn’t work like that! Later in the year, discipline can waver, children can lack focus, and the act of even making it to training can feel like a hard slog.

In these moments, setbacks can hit hard. It can feel that all your effort – especially for volunteers, who are working a “2nd job” – is amounting to nothing. It’s embarrassing when things go wrong, and feels like a poor reflection on you. But is isn’t. 

  • Resist speaking the first thought your mind, until you have stepped away from the scene. This will save you from a rant you can’t take back.
  • Remember that all players are young and learning. The most basic of errors are not always a sign of carelessness, but a sign of pressure and “over-thinking”.
  • Close that “League Table” window on your screen (I know it’s there, let’s not pretend) (don’t worry, it’s saved on your favorite pages anyway).
  • Humanize those silly mistakes. Remember the moments you yourself have run your partner out on 65, or dropped that sitter with 4 to win. Kneed yourself in the head, falling over while turning for a 2.
  • You probably messed around sometimes as a child as well! Have a little empathy!
  • Remember you have signed up for the whole thing – including good and bad days. To commit fully until the final week is over. The best coaches only pat themselves on the back when the job is done….then swiftly move onto the next challenge.