I had an interesting chat yesterday about how you plan and implement a junior training programme. As we discussed it, I found myself saying one thing above all others:

"We need to know why."

That's my shorthand way of asking about a whole bunch of factors that go into a plan beyond the practicalities of coaching cricketers. Asking "why?" is a simple question but the answer gives you the culture, the aims and goals, and the indicators of success.

Unless everyone knows and agrees why, how can you be sure you did well?

Unless everyone knows and agrees why, what will stop you pulling in different directions?

When it comes to kids training, understanding why works in two directions:

  1. Coaches can coach based on clear aims and be measured on how they did. Results are better.
  2. Players can be coached with a clear mind on why they turn up every session. Performance and behaviour is better.

With a clear purpose being driven home relentlessly by everyone (including the players), you become more successful.

So, before you get into the nitty-gritty of actual coaching, make sure you know why. It will help you in the long run.

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
Proper planning prevents poor performance! Partick win the Greenwood Trophy

Proper planning prevents poor performance! Partick win the Greenwood Trophy

The season is drawing to a close, and a few very sensible cricket people have been in touch with me about winner sessions. But without a plan, those sessions will be wasted.

So, if you have any ambition to do well in 2019, now is the time to start planning your off season. Good planning leads to helpful practice leads to more runs and wickets!

With this in mind, I'm offering a planning session (either in-person or online) with any cricketer at any level . If you take this up before 3rd September 2018 you can get it for just £10.

What I can help with:

  • Reviewing your season and identifying strong and weak areas: Technically, tactically, mentally and lifestyle.
  • Deciding what kind of training will help you best over the next eight months leading up to the 2019 summer.
  • Spotting potential opportunities to add extra "bang for your buck" and spot any individual barriers to improvement.
  • Give you an ear to voice you frustrations and fears.
  • Providing a comprehensive plan to cover the period up to Christmas, or into the spring.
  • A net session (if local to Glasgow).

To get into this, message me on 07736320337 or coach@david25.com. Remember, it's £10 up to 3rd September, and it's on a first come first served basis.

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
West of Scotland Cricket Club, Glasgow

West of Scotland Cricket Club, Glasgow

We all love to talk about rotating the strike more. About letting the opposition bowl too many dots. About controlling the game. It's easy to mention off hand. 

But, what does effective strike rotation look like?

To give you a benchmark, Most teams in the WDCU Premier Division, where I coach, score from a third of the balls they face. Not as many as you thought perhaps? 

Generally, the team I coach - West of Scotland - are good at it compared to the opposition. West score from, on average, eight more balls than our opponent. There is a higher Scoring Ball Percentage (SB%) in half of the matches so far this season, with about two thirds won. So, while it's not a perfect indicator of success, it certainly helps.  

But to really improve strike rotation, we need to work out what we are missing, if anything

What runs are really missed?

Any ball can be a dot, rotated for runs or hit for a boundary. Clearly the optimal is to hit six from every ball. Even more clearly this is so astronomically unlikely as to be impossible.

What is more realistic?

Hitting a boundary is still a better result because you get more runs, but it is also riskier: Attacking shots like a pulls, drives or cuts will score 22 runs per wicket at 2.3 runs per shot. Rotational shots like glances, pushes and flicks get you 54 runs per wicket but at a much slower 1.4 runs per shot. That means there is balance to be made. A rotation could be a positive or a negative: An extra 1.4 runs (instead of a dot) or 0.9 runs missed (instead of a boundary).

So, to see how well we rotate, we need to look how many runs we score with:

  1. A shot that was not intended for the boundary (hitting it to long off for a single for example).
  2. A shot that was in control (not an edge or miss hit).

It's the number of these balls we are trying to increase.

In over 3000 balls this season, The XI have done this 626 times: 48 per game. In comparison, the opposition average 40 per game. So West are ahead again.

However, the better question is not "how often does this happen?", but "how many runs do we miss"?

  • There have been 2189 dots so far this year.
  • There have been 442 controlled attacking shots played that did not go for a boundary (although 65% of those balls got some runs).
  • There have been 407 controlled rotational shots played that were dots.

In other words, a potential 43 rotated runs were "missed" on average per game. That's not including the 27 extra missed runs from attacking shots as well.

Of course, this is an optimal figure. No one will ever really score from every controlled shot played; there's too many external factors. Like good fielding.

But when you know what you could have won, you can have confidence you can sneak a little bit more.

An additional six extra balls rotated would get you eight more runs a match. An additional six balls that were attacked and scored from would get 14 runs (one or two in boundaries). 

Two overs more for 22 runs sounds good to me!

And how do you do that?

Forget the stats: It's about intent

All those stats can't help you much in the middle. What they can do is give you confidence for a simple philosophy: You look to score from more balls.

Coaches call this intent to score: The idea you are looking to find a way to score from every ball. A bad one might be a boundary, a good one might be rotated.

The point is, knowing there are a lot of wasted chances every game can give you the confidence to look for them.

We all play and miss, edge the ball or miss hit it. We may do it a bit more if we are looking to push on. But these stats show there are a lot of missed runs in every game even when you take out those poor shots.

It might look like a tiny insignificant improvement to score from 12 more balls, but not only is it possible, it also makes winning significantly more likely.

Just from a bit of intent.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
"Batting in the easy net, or having throw downs that are half volleys, or even putting the bowling machine on hitting half volleys for half an hour. These aren’t going to make you better... the key to becoming a better player is to make training tough and to get out of your comfort zone."

Joel Hamilton is right

It's not a new message, yet how many players still go into a net with no clear plan, and come out with no clear idea of what's happened?

Quite a few!

This year at my club I have noticed people saying "you need to come to nets" after we lose. It's an easy thing to say, but if you come to nets and fail to challenge yourself in areas you need to improve (either making strengths stronger or reducing weaknesses) guess what happens?

Nothing!

The route to success is paved on all sides with failures. Seek them out and learn from them.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

 

 

"In recent times, [England]... knew their numbers, they were precise. They had their theories. Three maidens leads to a wicket. If a player in your top three scores a ton in an ODI game, you’ll generally win. It’s a mindset of conservative trust in your plans and in pre-determined patterns of play prevailing. Sam Curran, and particularly his display in this match, couldn’t be further from that era... Today at Edgbaston he showed he’s a gambler, and he broke the Test right open."

Sam Curran swinging England back into a Test match is a great story. But it's this above quote I'm interested in. The dicotomy set up is trusted plans versus confident gambling. And it's clear CricViz prefer the latter.


But how different are the two options?


You can have a plan that is based on precision and conservative trust and also be able to take a risk based on a hunch. To me they are not in opposition.


It's a little like driving. Here in the UK - where roads are among the safest - there are strict rules that allow you to get to your destination safely and efficiently. If you ignored those rules totally (running red lights, driving the wrong side of the road, breaking the speed limit and so on) in the hope of getting somewhere more quickly, you would likely have an accident. Reckless abandon is not a good solution in any situation. At best, you get away with doing something silly.


On the other hand, if you stick to the letter of the Highway Code totally, you will sometimes find yourself in situations that slow you down. Unusual road layouts, or safe overtaking for example, mean you have to "break the rules" to remain safe and efficient. This is mindful execution of skill. You are not shackled by premeditation. You are still largely following a plan, you are just adapting to changing situations as you go.


Remind you of batting?


I'll give you an example. You are driving on a two lane road in traffic that seems to be getting heavy up ahead. From the way the traffic moves, you get a sense for needing to change lanes early. If you wait too long you end up slowing everyone down by changing lanes in heavy traffic. But you can't be sure a lane change so early will be helpful yet. Your instincts just tell you it's time to go and you make a decision in the moment. Get it right and you reach your destination sooner. In cricket, you can have a similar sense. A bowling change brings on someone young who looks nervous. You can't be sure, but you think this could be the player to take a chance at attack. You make a decision in the moment. Get it right, and your chase looks confident as you blaze past the target.


In other words, there is room for both safety in a well-established plan, and an instinctive breaking from the plan in the moment.


To return fully to cricket, you could argue Curran took too many risks and just got lucky. He seemed to run a few red lights! Yet, more important than the level of risk, he clearly felt able to make a decision and go with his own way.


As coaches, our job is to create an environment where this can happen. There will be rules and theories and plans. Yet, there will also be a feeling of "trust your gut". If a player feels the situation requires something outside the plan, they must feel able to try.


In Curran's case, it worked. In many other cases it will not. It almost doesn't matter.


As long as the player can walk off the park - performed or failed - with their head high saying "that was my plan" then there are no recriminations from the team, the captain or the coach. That's a great culture, great mindset, great team spirit and a team with a good chance of success.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe



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Recently, we had a middle practice with a range of players at different standards from juniors to established first team cricketers.


I have written before about why I prefer middle practice over nets. The short summary is this: Practice is more realistic. Decision making expands from pure shot selection into calling and running, batting in game context and a feeling of pressure.


But alongside this huge benefit are issues. Players tend to switch off after a few overs. There is a wide range of standards that need matching up. Players don't all treat it like a game so don't feel the benefits.


These issues used to frustrate me. I used to get annoyed when players didn't "buy in" to the practice. In all honesty, I do still get a bit annoyed, but now I ignore that annoyance and see every reaction as an opportunity to learn more about the players I coach and hopefully engage them in discussion about how to improve.


This last session was a great example. Some of the things I observed:


A player taking charge of running the session, especially guiding the juniors, showing great leadership potential, and a strong personality.


The players self-organising after some pushing by me into middle practice. I suggested some rules, they customised them to match their needs and got on with it.


Some players not engaged with the session unless they were actively involved in batting or bowling. I observed this was a consequence of a certain mindset (not wanting to field).


Other players coming up with suggestions to improve things and add more critical moment feeling to the session. This shows the importance of reflection both in the moment and after the session is over.


One of the key points for me I tried to get to the players was that you get as much from these kind of sessions as you put in. If you think it's going to be rubbish then it will be. If you focus on working on key things you can't get from nets (running, bowling to a field, batting to a target) you will get something.


Whatever happens, all player responses are a chance to learn: What they think about practice, how they behave in a training environment, what inspires them, what bores them and what choices they make in the moment.


From here you can reflect with them. How can we get to a place where we can improve the things we need to improve? In the moment, did we do what was best?


Perhaps that does need the occasional "you are doing this" from the coach if the players don't self organise in the way they have previously said they want to. But the dream outcome is the players realising and adjust within and between themselves. That way they are using this struggle to learn and improve. That takes space for action, space for errors (in behaviour as well as performance) and time for reflection.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

Recently, I was in a conversation with some passionate coaches, talking about parent helpers. The general gist of the chat was; 

”They are great to help but they don’t actually do any coaching. We need to have a coach or experienced player at junior games so they can tell the kids what to do.” 

Contrary to popular belief, that’s not coaching. If anything, it’s the opposite. By telling kids the answers they never learn to be creative, adaptable, problem-solvers on the pitch. They rely on advice from on high. Advice that may or may not work!

(In fact, later in the same conversation one coach was bemoaning a dad who was offering terrible advice to his son. Not all advice is equal!) 

I prefer an approach called “The Way of the Silent Coach”. It’s not really silent, but it does have far less telling, far more questioning and far more building an environment where players feel comfortable to work it out themselves. Albeit under my guidance and questioning. 

Click here to read more about it.

There are many critics to this way. I was one of them for a long time. So, I appreciate the arguement. Telling a kid what to do can be super effective. Sometimes you need to do that, but it’s a lot less often than you think.

Why? Because people love having space to play, try things, fail, try again and keep going. That’s partially why computer games are so popular. We have freedoms in those games away from people telling us what to do and how to do it. We play, learn and play again.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
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I will be running West of Scotland Cricket Club's coaching camps this summer. The camps are ideal for activity-loving boys and girls aged between 9-16.

The camps run on the following weeks:

  • July 9-13
  • August 6-10

For full details contact me here.

The action-packed camps are all day cricket activity sessions come rain or shine. The emphasis of the camps are to help keen is challenging and fun sessions with the West coaching team.

The team also includes Trevor Garwe, Zimbabwe International.

West's unique indoor cricket centre means we can keep busy even when it's raining. The centre is equipped with all the tools to improve batting (bowling machine, sidearm ball throwers) and bowling (PitchVision video analysis and ball tracking).

When the sun shines we can work outdoors on all skills. The coaching and technology on hand in unrivalled anywhere in Glasgow (and far beyond)!

Either way, a week at West is guaranteed to improve your cricket, and be very enjoyable!

Camps are £150 for the full week.

The camps are open to all young players from any club, and are ideal for junior Western Warriors players and hopefuls to make the next step in the game.

For full details and to book contact me here.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
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Julien Wood - power hitting coach - was passionately telling the coaches stood around him that cricket is changing. I was in the crowd at the Cricket Scotland Coaches Forum for a session with the six smashing expert.


Before we touched a bat in the practical session, we learned why this stuff is important. Because everyone loves being able to clear the ropes. Because kids love to try and wack it. Because T20 is the biggest format.


We all accepted this quickly.


But there is a question.


If hitting is not batting (and it isn't), how and when do you introduce it to players?


Hitting defies the "basics" in many ways. It's premeditated. You don't lead with head, you don't keep a straight bat or a high elbow.


You get the hands up high and away from the body in the backswing.


Your hip comes through first.


Sometimes you use your wrists for power.


Sometimes you are not even balanced (although you can be).


These things are hitting and so in direct conflict with batting.


So when little 10 year old Jessica turns up to try cricket, when is the time to develop batting, and when is the time to go with power?


The trick is not to think of power hitting as different, but additional.


You learn to power hit just like you would learn to drive, cut, pull and sweep. It's not an exact comparison because "power hitting" is not a single shot, but a set of adaptable skills. Nevertheless, you give it a go at practice, you see how it goes. You hone and enhance it based on your own way of moving.


For Jessica, that means saying "hit it as hard as you can!" And letting the fun do the rest.


For those a bit older, it means practice on the technical and the decision-making elements: How and when you go for the ropes.


But you can hit the ball straight along the ground too.


Some will gravitate naturally to big hitting. You can spot them a mile off as they swing themselves off their feet when they miss! Encourage better direction of the energy. Hone and enhance the natural.


Some will prefer to play the percentage game: Straight, along the ground, balanced. They will play that way first, but encourage them to learn the other way. It gives them an option. Grow their skills.


After all, everyone - even the biggest blocker - will have their moment where they want to hit rather than bat (six to win off the last ball), so give it a go. It's not a conflict, it's an enhancement to cricket.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
...my eagerness to get the run was in part based on a sense of entitlement, as if the fact that I deserved at least one for this shot, which would have gone for four if it hadn’t hit the fielder’s leg, was more relevant to right action than where the ball actually went.

Mike Brearley writing about being run out after playing a good shot.

This sums up a huge challenge of coaching batsmen: You can’t see a player’s sense of entitlement. If you are not aware of the possibility of invisible forces on batsmen, you might do extra running practice with the team. Sprint work for more speed, better judgement of runs and so on. While all this is helpful, it’s not the root of the issue. 

Working on invisible skills - thoughts and feelings -  is not easy to do in nets. Players mostly do not even realise its happening and seek out technical, tactical or even blame-based answers.

That’s why a good coach can also tease out more from a player than surface level excuses and justifications.

And that takes huge skill and expertise far beyond technical awareness.

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

Performance is a behaviour not an outcome.

That’s a line I have heard a few times, but until recently it didn’t fully click with me. It sounds like a sound bite with no real substance. Yet, looking back over some of my frustrations as a coach in the last three years, I have realised that it’s almost always behaviours at the root.

  • Players who are not bought into training.
  • Disengaged players who don’t want to do the activities I plan out.
  • Youngsters who are disruptive.
  • Team mates who ignore poor behaviours and complain about it behind each other’s backs.
  • Cricketers who show no sign of learning new skills despite trying it many times over.

And as that’s the case, I decided to get my “behaviour development” game on point with the players I coach. If the theory is correct, the outcomes should follow the behaviours. And I think it is, so I’m going to put more focus on it.

Here is my plan.

 

“How we do things here”

Last year, in conjunction with the senior players at West, we developed a Code of Conduct. It was a written set of standards that we all agreed were important in defining what we stand for as a cricket club. How we do things round here.

It crystallised what we expected of each other and what was most important. If we act like the code, we are at our best. If we don’t, we hold each other accountable.

The challenge is to keep this a real, living reference and not just an inspirational poster on the wall that means nothing. I think we can do better on that by first, reviewing it to make sure it still applies, and second, reinforcing it as much as possible.

For this I plan to pinch a trick from Mark Bennett: Asking players before practice and games and to define today’s acceptable, exceptional and unacceptable behaviour. Then relentlessly use the “rule of three” to ensure those standards are met every time we are together.

If they are consistently not met, we need to get together to adjust the standards.

This is the part where I have fallen down in the past. I have gone through anger and frustration through to acceptance that I can’t control player behaviours. Of course, this is still true, but where I can do better is to help the players realise they have a choice. They can define their own behaviours. All I need to do is remind them of their own standards when they forget to apply them.

My big question is how will this apply across the different players I coach. I have one to ones, small groups, club nets, school kids in a range of ages in PE lessons and pathway squads. Can the same model apply across the board? I’ll find out as I try.

This is especially a question around players who don’t buy in despite my efforts.

In many cases (school, club) I don’t have the luxury of removing players from the system if they refuse to fit. I can’t drop a schoolgirl from a PE lesson because she doesn’t like the culture. I can’t stop a player turning up to club nets because he is half-hearted in his training.

Yes, I can try and engage them with a relentless application of agreed standards. That will work for some. For others, they will both continue to attend and continue to be disengaged. I’ll be interested to see how many and how I deal with it.

That said, here’s the basic formula in a nutshell:

  • Identify and agree overall standards.
  • Agree acceptable, unacceptable and exceptional behaviour at every opportunity.
  • Use the Rule of Three to relentlessly apply these standards.

We often lump all behaviours into the one aim of reducing unhelpful behaviour in kids. This is one part, but behaviours are more. They are how we act at all times, and so also what we do when we are at our very best. These days a coach can’t enforce those behaviours on those we coach, but we can show our players how much we refuse to let them be at anything but their best by helping them hold themselves up to the highest standards as defined by themselves.

That’s why I’m doing this. The proof will soon make itself obvious!

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
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The Preseason Cricket Performance Camp is running during the Easter break, taking full advantage of the indoor training facilities at West of Scotland Cricket Club, Glasgow.

The camp, designed for hard ball cricketers to boost their form before the season begins, runs all week from 9th-13th April. 

Due to space, places are limited.

The camp is suitable for all ages of cricketer from 14 to senior player; anyone who has the aim of improving skills with bat and ball before the season begins.

Sessions are coaching intensive with lots of drills and skill work to take your game to the next level against challenging opposition.

The latest coaching tools are used such as PitchVision video analysis, Sidearm ball throwers, bowling machine and fielding equipment.

The indoor nets at West are the venue, and if weather allows, training will also be outside.

  • Sessions run daily 10am-12pm and 1pm-3pm.
  • The cost is £20 per session or £75 for a block of five sessions (lunch not included).

Places are limited so book early to avoid disappointment. To book or if you have further queries, contact me here

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

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Planning is about realism, but also needs a pinch of idealism.

This is the conclusion I have come to during my recent planning of summer training for West of Scotland Cricket Club. The recent snow and cancelled sessions have got me in planning mode, as I have done for the last three summers at West.

I used to plan based on the ideal: It won’t rain much, most people will attend most sessions, match availability will be abundant, everyone will want to do exactly what I plan when I plan it. Players are happy to try new ways of training. There will be as much energy at the end of the summer as there is in April. This wasn’t realistic.

Now I plan based on these key variables: 

  • Give as many players as possible as many chances as possible to play under match conditions. However, availability for training and matches will be wildly varied.
  • Players prefer to play games than come to training, and most will choose matches over training. 
  • Training is well attended for the first few weeks, tails away as midweek matches start (West are in five midweek competitions and a Sunday cup), has a short recovery in July before tailing away to virtually nothing by the end of August.
  • Home midweek games and rain need different sessions to “normal” sessions.
  • Every playing member will get the chance to train, but those more open to being pushed at training will get more attention. Coachable players get coached!
  • Many players love the default (nets and fixed fielding drills with high volume) and rarely engage with anything else. This is especially true when deciding what to do as a group.

With these constraints, I have build a plan that is flexible. It looks complicated because it has so many options, but in reality, I will just pick the most suitable one and run with it. It’s realistic and idealistic.

Realism isn’t an excuse for pessimism though. In the past I have let the failures of sessions get to me and we end up in “default net” mode because players were not engaged with the session. Perhaps that was my fault, perhaps the players were not coachable enough that day. Whatever the reason, these things happen. My goal for the year is to work as hard as possible to inspire people to be better than the default. With that in mind, my big focus for changes to training is,

  • Building team spirit and improvement mindset into sessions as well as games.
  • Bringing training closer to matches.
  • Offering constraints-led drills and skill work, especially in the field.

Of course, these are ideals and not every box will be ticked at every session. That said, the more I can convince players do these things, the better it will be for the club. For example, I know a lot of players tend to dislike middle practice. However, also know well-run centre wicket work is one of the best ways to develop form and decision making skills.

That means I’ll try to do it as much as possible but need to understand the conditions need to be right. We need a practice wicket and the right number of players at the right standard. We need buy in from those participating, and an understanding it will be a lower volume session (which is OK). We need good weather and no home game that night. If these elements align, the session may still fail (unforeseen lack of attendance, snap shower, players not fully bought in). Or it may work like a charm and we all get something from it.

The point is, it’s my job to try, review and try again.

As a result, my plan is flexible but looking to stretch those who want to be stretched. It fights against the default “just hitting balls” mindset, but is also aware sometimes that’s the best you can do. My ideal is West are better than the default, my realism means I’m ready for when we are not. I’ll always strive to push West onward though, and this plan is the foundation of that realistic ideal. 

If you want more details about the planning process for club cricket, drop me a line for a chat. 

 

 

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

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Pace coach Steffan Jones recently said net bowling “is of no benefit to the pace bowler”.


While I broadly agree, I also think it’s a problem that is not easy to solve. Mainly because bowlers want to bowl in nets. Most bowlers love to bowl. They have relatively few chances, so when they get a session they tend to bowl as long as possible.


As a coach you can monitor this, but only in your sessions. What if the bowler you coach works with others? What if they go to nets with their mates and just bowl for hours because they are having fun? This happens all the time.


It’s the slightly older version of running a session with six year olds with clever designed warm up, session goals and cool down only to see them run back onto the outfield for two more hours after you finish.


Steff’s solution is great: heavy and light bowling days, combined with properly organised nets where bowlers bowl in spells that reflect game time. I encourage all coaches to build sessions like this. I’d love to see it. I also know that it is never going to happen outside my sessions. Certainly not at club or school level.


I think the best we can do as coaches is to build environments where players can work with these solutions, try them out and see how they work. We can structure sessions effectively to show players a useful path.


I think we can build a culture in the teams we coach of care for the fast bowler. We can help the team understand their own bowlers needs, and work to make sure they are met as well as possible.


But we must also remember that bowlers gonna bowl when the coaching shackles are off: Especially if they are kids, or adults with no intention of playing professionally. Bowling is fun, a way of letting off steam and a way to challenge themselves. They ask themselves, why would they bowl less or in such a restrictive way?


I’m not knocking Steff, he’s doing great work in a specific environment where he has more control and can do more like this. But I do wonder even in the most controlled situations, do all players stick totally to the plan?


Players certainly don’t stick to any plan I try for long. My conclusion after years of trying is to unclench. By all means, try it, but don’t panic if it turns out to be rejected by the players. It may work brilliantly, it may not. Only the players can decide what works for them because they are the only consistent presence in their game development.


I know some coaches will argue we know best so players should listen. I used to argue that too. Personally, I can’t hold that worldview any longer. Not with any integrity. For me it came for a place of ego and a need to control things I can’t control. For me it came from an impossible idea; that one coach can have total influence over a group of players. For me, I have realised that is impossible. For me it also came from a deep fear: If the coach can’t instruct any more, what is the job of the coach at all? Are we all just snake-oil salesmen?


Of course not.


Knowledge is still power, but I think it’s less useful for coaches than it was before because knowledge is so easy to obtain these days.


Real coaching helps players get the best from themselves not through pouring knowledge into cricket player jugs. It comes from building great relationships, mindsets, cultures and environments where players feel comfortable to build, fail and build again. That’s way more complex and difficult to grab than telling players what to do based on the latest research.


But from my viewpoint, it’s the only thing that gives you a chance to be a great coach.


And this was supposed to be an article about session design for bowlers. Sometimes you need to look deeper.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe

 

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One thing I have railed against for years is the idea of “standard nets”: The unthinking practice where you have a few bowlers, one batter and 10 minutes each.


Unrealistic.


In more recent times, I have started to realise the inevitable nature of this kind of net session, especially with teenage and adult players. While I have plenty of alternative strategies, I also think it’s not as unhelpful as I have suggested in the past. Plus, I’ve come to accept there’s not much I can do about it.


 Cricket net mentality


When I’m working with engaged, self-sufficient and coachable players in a group net, I notice a certain mentality. Players with this mindset do not need a coach nudge. They go in to bat with a specific aim in mind. They don’t need the bowlers to do anything, they work with what they have.


For example, last year the pro at West would net for 10 minutes against whoever was bowling (sometimes pretty average players). He would work on his footwork to spinners and how big a stride he was taking to seamers. He never got fed up and hit out. He played with patience and focus. He walked out thanking every bowler for their efforts. He made the most of the situation.


Compare that to the average group of club players.


When left to net, they bowl until it’s their turn to bat. They bat for a bit with no real goal then have a swing at the end. They walk out with a general feeling of it going well or badly. This latter group is in the vast majority, even with experienced, talented and skilful players.


In the worst cases, when the situation is challenging - like a tired net wicket that is hard to bat on - some players give up altogether and either swing until time is up or come out early.


Coach intervention


When I first started coaching full time in nets I tried very hard to come up with ways to prevent this unfocused thinking: Games, drills, removing nets, putting up incentives, whiteboard themes, one to one conversations and more. Every intervention was met with some success but always the same end result eventually: A return to standard nets.


I felt a lot of frustration about this, and tried even harder to help players find a focus. Some of these methods worked well but there was no universal solution. And I think over 10 years of trying with different teams has proven how hard default nets stick.


Really it was my ego getting bruised when I saw “failure”.


In fact, the default net stays default partly because it is a useful tool. When done right it works to,


  • Allow players to focus on action-perception training with bat and ball (e.g. picking line and length).
  • Develop mindset and mental skills around batting and bowling.
  • Socialise and have fun with teammates (crucial in club cricket, not a thing to be avoided).
  • Get a lot of players with efficient time on task.


It’s easy, comfortable, it broadly works. For these reason the shadow of the default net looms large.


The realisation


Recently I realised I had not been thinking about nets in the right way.

 

I can never make default nets vanish and replace them with something else because it’s too easy, too ingrained, too trusted by players who have had a lot of success in cricket. I saw it from their viewpoint; fixing something that is not broken. Perhaps even risking their form for some foolish new fangled way to train.


No wonder they don’t want to change.


No wonder I see net games break down the moment I stop scoring the game. No wonder most players can’t even focus enough to even tell me what they are working on when I ask. No wonder people have literally walked out of my middle practice sessions because they don’t get the safe feeling net.


In their mind, especially a group mind, nets feel good and work fine.


With this thought, I realised it’s not personal. It’s not about my coaching skills. It’s not my job to get frustrated when players don’t fit my methods and principles. That’s my ego talking. My job is to find ways that work for the players, even when that’s not always what I want to coach.


Of course, there are also many ways nets can be unhelpful to development.  It’s too easy to switch off. It’s not as realistic as middle practice or as focused as game based drills. You can’t work on technique.


However, they can be useful. More importantly, most players think they are useful in that group setting. And what’s the saying about bringing a horse to water?


Cricket net coaching 3.0


Where does this reality leave the coach’s role at group nets?


First and foremost, I think we have to develop a real understanding of the players we coach. What motivates them? What inspires them? How do they think? How do they act in a group and as a group? What do they think works to develop their game (if they even have enough desire to do so)? What do they need to do to improve?


The more we know, the more we can match net sessions to the players.


Sometimes those sessions will look a lot like traditional netting. Even when we know in our heart of hearts there are more useful and developmental ways of training. If we know a group are the type to resist, its time to rethink the plan. If we think we can push harder and get a response, then try.


I like to think one day I will coach a group who feel the same as me about default netting. But I can’t control that because it’s always the player’s choice to make as an individual and as a group. Conscious or unconscious, social loafing or individual motivation. Respect for the coach or not.


As coaches, we can inspire, set up options, motivate, grow culture, encourage mindful action, explain why thing work, understand character and build environments. But we can never make that final choice to engage. To be coachable.


So we need to accept nets will eventually default to the simplest option. Take the chance when it comes to offer more helpful things but remember it’s the player’s choice, not ours. That helps us accept when our methods are rejected. That helps us realise there is only so much we can do.


Sometimes a traditional net is helpful because everyone is engaged and motivated towards a target. Sometimes it’s unhelpful for development but helpful for having a laugh with mates. Sometimes it’s unhelpful busywork. That’s really up to the players, not us. Not matter how hard we try and take the lead.


In my mind now I have relaxed my sense of wanting to be in control. Of course there are things we can and should do: Understand the players, make an offer. View the outcomes and adjust. See where the players take us when we try.


We might not end up where we wanted, but we will have fun seeing how far we can go with people who trust us because they know how much we care.


In the end, cricket coaching is far more about helping and guiding people than getting nets right.


Isn’t it?

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
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Here's a net game that ramps up the tactical, decision making and feeling of playing cricket. Also, it's named after a 90s computer game. Win-win!

The game requires a little bit of planning, but can work with four-six players in each net lane.

First, pick teams. You don't need even numbers (and people can even arrive late and still join in). Then decide on the duration of each innings and who is batting first.

Devise a scoring system. We used a variation on PGS zones with these points:

  • 1pt - Hit bowler defined zone with attacking shot (attempt rewarded more than outcome).
  • 4pt - Hit  different bowler defined zone with attacking shot (attempt rewarded more than outcome).
  • -1pt - Play and miss on off side.
  • -5pt - Out bowled, stumped, caught behind, skyed or caught and bowled.

Then play out the match!

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As you can see, we kept score on the whiteboard.

The response was brilliant. Everyone was highly engaged with the session. The bowlers and batsmen were arguing over the finer points of the rules, the result really mattered! It also got players to think tactically with their batting and bowling, and forced batsmen to play shots they didn't think they could play in order to try and win.

It was creative, messy, fun and developmental. I was delighted!

Give it a go and see how the players you coach get on with it. Be prepared for some great challenging discussions to be had.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
 
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Why don’t we see more coaches in business?

A coach in sport helps players find ways to improve. In cricket that leads to runs and wickets. 

In business, that leads to profit.

Although the goal is different, the methods are the same. Coaches are in the people business. We are effective when we understand how people and teams tick, what motivates them and how to draw out the best in them. 

Coaching develops people

Managers in business, like captains in sport, are so constrained by the pressures of time they don’t get the chance to coach. Even though everyone from the MD to the team leader is effective and efficient with well drilled processes and policies, they know how much greater a well-coached team can be.

Like good cricket teams, coached and coachable businesses are not just skilled and efficient. 

They know attitude and mindset, although invisible, are crucial elements in success. They focus on personal growth, pride in a job well done, and constant effort even under heavy workloads.

They are aware of their thoughts and behaviours and work towards helpful actions. They understand when they are having unhelpful thoughts and quickly act to stop them from becoming unhelpful actions and behaviours.

They have a powerful team culture built on a spirit of togetherness that extends far beyond shared goals. It helps them feel part of something important and motivates on a deep level.

A coached and coachable business roots out mistrust and toxic behaviour itself - even if it is within the “rules” - because this team has their way of working: A culture that is clear and honest.

So why don’t we see more coaches?

Coaching isn't instructing

I think it’s an image problem.

Most people in business see a sports coach as a PE teacher from the 70s. The coach blows a whistle, makes people do laps and punishment and forces endless, repetitive drills on the cold winter pitch or sports hall.

I have coached for over 20 years. I don’t own a whistle. The only time the players I coach do laps is if they choose to do them to get fit. I don’t even really like drills as a way of coaching. At least, not the brainless repetition of most of them.

Coaches are not instructors any more.

The old-school coach image is wrong.

When you get coaching these days, it’s all about coaching. Coaching by centring on the coachee. Understanding and empathising with the goal of development:

  • How you think.
  • What you believe.
  • What you feel.
  • How you act.
  • What you think, feel and do when you are at your best.
  • What you want to change.
  • How you are going to change.

Real-life coaching

Let me give you a couple of practical examples.

First, George. George is new to a business but has been around long enough to understand the company policies. He works hard and tows the line. He is not a star performer but he never does anything wrong. He wants to learn some new skills but is having trouble finding the time because real work and business pressures come first.

George gets the chance to work with the company coach once a week for half an hour. In that time the coach and George chat about his aims and goals. He clarifies his ambitions and plans how he might get there.

To his surprise, the coach also shadows George at work for a few days too. 

In the next meeting, the coach starts asking George about why he did things at certain times. George feels his brain hurting a little as he digs deeper into how he feels, what his underlying assumptions are about things, and where points of frustration creep in.

He kept an open mind. He wanted to improve.

Over a few sessions and a few shadow days, George starts to get a clearer picture of how he works and why he works that way. He is able to organise his time better as a result and finds time to upskill without significant impact on the business. His new found skills pay off with better, more consistent performance.

George’s example shows, with an open mind, coaching helps you give yourself the chance to be the best you can be, whatever your job.

The second example is Sara. Sara also works hard and toes the line. She has been around a bit longer than George and understands the company a little better. 

She is also seen a problem by her manager. She never “breaks the rules” but she often bends them as far as possible. She doesn’t fit the culture of the company. She arrives just before start time and leaves exactly on time every day. She takes every excuse to get away from work for a moment. She sometimes lets a good chat get in the way of real work. 

Because Sara never breaks any rules, she sees nothing wrong with what she is doing. She doesn’t agree with her manager and doesn’t want to change anything.

Sara notices when the coach is around but, at first, does not see any one to one time. The coach is often around the team; chatting, joining in team meetings, taking notes and having sessions with others on the team.

Eventually the coach gets to Sara for a meeting. There are a lot of questions about how and why Sara does things. She can’t always answer them. She feels defensive. Yet, over time, the coach helps her recognise her feelings and match them to what she wants. Together they find areas they can work on, points of conflict with the manager and rest of the team, and a deeper understanding of how to make positive changes without comprising the core of who Sara feels she is.

Sometimes the meetings are one to one, sometimes they have a team mate or two. Occasionally the manager joins in. The discussion and action plan is always guided by the coach. Even when feelings run high.

Sara starts to understand her role in the team, the culture of the company and her influence on others through her actions. She finds ways to fit in and become valuable while meeting her own needs.

These are the types of issues sports coaches deal with every day.

George and Sara are made up names, but their stories are the stories of players I have coached in a sporting context. I wasn’t in a suit in a company, I was in a tracksuit in a cricket net. 

Yet, people are still people whatever the context.

Beyond practical, into inspired

We tend to get drawn into the practical and immediate in both sport and business. The next sale, the next match.

Sometimes you need someone to get deeper, delve into the invisible soft side and help inspire people the be the best they can be. It leads to a better bottom line, just like it leads to more wins on the field.

Good coaching taps into this on a team and individual level.

To try coaching in your business, set up a meeting with me to find out how I can help.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe
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Players in Glasgow who are U12 and U14 age group have a chance to get some extra coaching.

The West Regional Development Centre is hosting two, open to all, hardball cricket skill development sessions during the 2018 February school holidays. I will be coaching at the sessions.

  • U12s (2018 cricket age) – Monday 12th February, 1pm – 4pm
  • U14s (2018 cricket age) – Tuesday 13th February, 10am – 1pm
  • Where? Hutchesons’ Grammar School Sports Hall, G41 4NW
  • For Whom? Sessions are open to all players from the West Region – players do not need to have any current (or prior) involvement in ‘Area Group’ / ‘Regional’ programmes
  • Coached By? The current Western Warriors U14 & U16 Lead Coaches: Tim Hart & David Hinchliffe
  • Cost £25
  • To Book Contact Tim Hart (timhart@cricketscotland.com) for more information

Places at both sessions are limited, so please get in contact early to avoid disappointment.

Posted
AuthorDavid Hinchliffe