Are we doing nets soon?
Will we be going in the nets soon? I’m a bit concerned there haven’t been any nets so far. This training seems a bit basic for my son/daughter.
If I was to sum up the parental feedback we typically get over the winter in 10 words, it would be something like this….
Nets, nets, nets, hardball, nets, nets, hardball, nets, nets, nets!
Why is it all about the nets?!!
Battling false impressions
Deep down, we know why. Hard ball, full batting gear, Everything about nets indicates “proper” cricket.
We are often caught between what is the right thing to do and what will ruffle the least feathers. Between what the players need and what they (and their parents) want.
At some cricket clubs I have worked at, I wrestle internally between the two. Sometimes even the journey to the ground, I still haven’t chosen my path. Do I want another evening (probably a chain of emails the next day too) justifying my methods? Do i have the patience to stand my ground over and over?
To put it simply: is it worth the effort? Can I be bothered to do things my way?
Limitations of nets
- Difficult to handle mixed standards – potentially dangerous situations
- Limited balls faced and bowled – soft balls allow for greater intensity and frequency of repetitions
Of course, net practice can be really useful – or you may have to factor more in than you previously planned. So how can we make them as beneficial as possible – not just at the time, but improvement that will stick long term?
The key is making them so, not assuming they are useful automatically. To be a productive use of your time, nets need….
Try not to treat nets as an “end in itself”. Give batters or bowlers carte-blanche to do whatever they want, and your session will meander. There will be peaks and troughs. They will “try new things” – probably once every 2 or 3 balls. Engagement will fluctuate….even more wildly than normal!
Set a scenario – “You are the opening batter. It’s a 30 over match. Set the platform for the rest of the innings”, would be the simplest. But even this gesture will give some direction to the players.
Set a theme – eg/ “today, we are going to learn how to deflect and time the ball. You score a point every time you hit the ball into the ground, before it hits the net”.
Don’t even bother turning up unless….
Measured a run-up – Sports halls are inadvertently useful for cricket training. They have lines to run down, and any number of “markers” for your run-up.
However you do it, mark your start point, and test whether you are “hitting the crease”.
Warmed up & stretched….or “engaged” different muscles! – Just trotting up and bowling some half-paced balls does not constitute a warm-up!
Muscles that need “engaging”:
- Shoulders – arms move freely, but a bowling action is dependent on free-moving shoulders too! I find a “exaggerated swimming” action effective.
- Hips – Bowling involves picking your knees up. This means the upper leg join needs to be loose. Lean against a wall, and swing each leg back and forward, across. Try to gently extend its range of movement.
- Core muscles – abs, lats, side and back. There is a lot of twisting and contorting involved with bowling. A strong core is needed help you to fully aim, bowl and complete your action.
There is a little trick to looking like a “good coach” in the nets….just be opinionated! Every ball will present an opportunity to say something new. But effective nets need more consistency and variety – “command-response” coaching might achieve some quick fixes, but isn’t enough to have a lasting effect.
The answer is blending in lots of “player-led” coaching. Start with assessing your opponents, and deciding on a plan! Some young players talk about their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses, as if they’ve never met before in their lives!
You do have to prompt them to analyze each other. And ween them off the classic cliches: “Bowl at the top of off”. “Keep it on the off-side”….all mean next-to-nothing, unless a player understands why they want to aim at these places.
A full grasp of a bowling plan will make them bowl with so much more intent, drive and purpose.
The last 10 minutes
This is the most critical phase of any net session. The closing stages will determine whether any improvements are crystallized, or whether your players jump straight back to “square 1”.
Quite naturally, people’s attention wanders towards the end. This applies to players and coaches. But a pep talk may be in order here, if you notice focus waning. Why spend 95% of your time building a player’s game up, only to undermine all that in the last 2 minutes.
I usually start with a compliment – “you have come so far in this hour” – along with some specific personal gains – “____, “your run-up is so much smoother”; ____’s movement to the ball has improved out of sight”!
Last over! You need 20 to win off 6!
Think. Are your targets realistic? Are you making the players earn their runs? Usually a coach will just award “2 runs” for any old slapped shot into the net.
Think of more imaginative ways to motivate your batters, other than a wildly unrealistic “last over” target.
Some games I use