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.

AuthorDavid Hinchliffe