1. Good drill doesn’t always = good coaching
“This is a brilliant drill, to get your players ________”
Sometimes the best looking, well-thought-through drills, don’t have as much impact. This is usually because of:
- LACK OF RELEVANCE – is the skill too abstracted from any real-life match pressure? Will it actually hold up when it matters?
- LACK OF REPETITIONS – relays are a good example. They may look controlled (and impressive to parents on the sidelines), but are very often just crowd management exercises. They drastically reduce time in contact with the bat/ball.
- ILLUSION OF PROGRESS – repeating pretty much any skill 100/200/300 times, will make you improve at it….no matter how flawed that skill is. Are they performing the skill the “right” way?
Drill A doesn’t automatically achieve objective B. No matter how much thought you have put into it.
2. Play the long game
“Why do you put up with that behavior, he’s so disrespectful”?
I was asked this by an onlooker at a cricket camp, last Summer. One of the boys had just snapped back rudely at me, after refusing to come and join the group.
My response was, “you haven’t seen what it was like last year”!
The boy in question had made super progress, become much less self-absorbed and was now frequently a positive influence on the younger . This rude comment was now the exception, not the rule.
I have already admitted that I have a tendency to give players “too much rope”. But at least this gives me the opportunity to sculpt young people’s behaviors for the better. For me, a little social embarrassment was a price worth paying, to achieve something other coaches simply wouldn’t have.
People can often talk a tough game on discipline. But sometimes this results in large sections of the group being left behind or condemned.
The way to become an inspiring coach is by turning around behaviors, not declaring who “wants to” or “doesn’t want to” be here….
- BE RELATABLE – make sure you are a seen as approachable to each individual. Have a “clean slate” every session. Prove that you don’t hold grudges (no matter how bad the reputation). This may require you to be the “bigger man/woman” at times. But hey, you are the adult here!
- EXPLAIN YOUR POINTS OF VIEW – Too many coaches take being challenged to heart. Children and adults can be contrary. Go out of your way to explain your methods and why they work.
A player will commit so much more to a technique/theme when they accept in their hearts it is right.
Good coaches often need to be good “lawyers”!
- INSTILL BELIEF – the reason for a lot of poor behavior is down to this crucial factor….low self esteem. In short, it’s easier to not try at all, than to try and possibly fail.
Working towards the high standards you expect can take years. But coaches need to “earn the right” to do things your way. This mindset helps to keep more players in the game.
3. “Read” your group: be adaptable
Every team and group is a different organism. Your challenge as a coach – find out what they will best respond to. Achieve this, and your life will be much easier. Fail, and you risk plenty of arguments and friction.
Many coaches try to achieve what they want, not what their group needs. Do they want to become the best players possible? Or do they have other motivations.
With both groups, your primary aim has to be to develop and improve. You don’t give up on groups who are a bit more laid back. But you may have to take things more slowly, or use different learning styles.
I usually have 3 or 4 session plans based around the same skill. A “one size fits all” approach will not work. Sometimes the finish line will take longer to reach the finish line than you would like.
4. Are your players really thinking?
…..or are they just saying what they think you want to hear? There is a difference!
Often you will find that they are parroting coaching cliches.
- “I’m coming down the wicket, to put the bowler off his/her length”
- “I’m mixing it up to confuse the batter”
- “I’m trying to hit through the off-side”
- “I’m going to hit the top of off-stump”
The best players will go beyond catch phrases, and get analytical – both about themselves and their opponents. Good themes include:
- STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES – a useful way to demonstrate that the same bowling, with a slightly different target or angle, can have more success.
- “WHAT’S THE PLAN – Batters and bowlers considering what each other are trying to do. This gives them a chance to adapt and counter the plan they need to, or force a “Plan B” if they have been figured out.
5. Coach the “Why’s” not the “What’s”
A bowler “releases the ball too late/early”. A batter didn’t “get to the pitch of the ball”, or “keep a straight bat”. A catcher didn’t keep their hands “in line with the ball”.
If you only talk about the “what’s” – or symptoms – a player may never understand the “why’s” – or causes.
EXAMPLE: RELEASING THE BALL “TOO EARLY/LATE”
Here, you are talking about an “unconscious” act. A bowler doesn’t actively decide when to let go of the ball. So pointing out release points is close to meaningless.
To improve, a player needs to know what makes this happen. A ball usually sticks in their hand too long, when they are falling down. Conversely, the ball flies out too soon when their fingers slip from behind the ball (leaning to the side, or slinging the ball).
EXAMPLE: GETTING “TO THE PITCH”
Think about how a young player might interpret this information. They will probably attempt to use their feet more – and this is potentially a good thing!
But there could be unintended consequences, as they look for a solution. They may start charging or lunging forwards, or going onto the front foot to every single ball.
Good footwork isn’t just about how big your step is. It is the ability to move your head and shoulders forwards too. “Leaning” to the ball is as vital as “stepping”!