One of my biggest challenges is finding a way to coach kids who are less interested in cricket.
At club level there are always times when older kids (around 13-16) come along to cricket training without a lot of motivation. They are not interested in improving. They just want a bit of fun with their mates.
This is fine, cricket should be fun. It doesn't have to be performance sessions every time.
What I find frustrating is when that mild disinterest takes away from any kind of discipline. I'm not talking about military level here, just bowling when it's your turn, playing the game as set out and putting your pads on in a timely manner.
It starts with being distracted (phones, training gear, food and other stuff laying around they can look at or use). The upshot is a batsman waiting to face a ball because everyone is doing something else.
Sometimes it gets to a point where they become unsafe: Throwing balls around, trying to trip each other up and bowling two balls at the same time.
How do I deal with this?
At the moment I am following the classic coaching plan of standing at the back of the net and shouting "focus" and "bowl please" as distractions take up more time than actual cricket. As a method, it has a low effectiveness.
It relies on the assumption that if you repeat something enough, attitudes will change. Evidence is so far proving to the contrary.
Another method I try is to give a theme to the session. This more often mindset based than technical or tactical. We focus on things like "trying your best" and "avoid your gremlins". This also has mixed results.
In the last session I also worked actively to reduce the distractions:
- We played a game that required more focus than usual as it was 2 vs 2 in "combat".
- I moved the music speaker out of reach of stray hands deciding they want to put it on maximum volume.
- I moved the sidearms out of easy reach meaning anyone who wants to use them has to go through me first.
- I also now insist that phones are not brought to sessions (or kept off and safe for the hours they are in the nets).
Each one of these work independently, but do not see an overall reduction in the distraction moments. In my mind this is because the issue is not with the items of distraction but the actions of the players.
So, I need a better way to keep minds focused, and stop me getting frustrated with behaviour that is not helpful.
Or to put it another way, I need to teach these guys to be good blokes before they are good cricketers.
So, for future sessions I plan to make the nets a haven from everyday; a place you come to enjoy moving that's fun. A place to help others have fun too.
The first step in my mind is to have a big intervention.
I will ask the guys - especially those who are most disruptive - why they come to cricket and what the would like to get out of it. My suspicions are they will say to have fun and maybe develop some skills.
I will also ask what they expect from me, and from each other. I suspect they will say something along the lines of helping each other play better cricket, and maybe have a laugh along the way.
Whatever they say, I'll have them agree to a one page document that outline this in simplest terms possible that gives them a reminder of what they said.
Then, I will tailor every session around meeting their stated aims. Every session will,
- Keep the distractions to a minimum.
- Keep teaching mindset tools.
- Be structured based on what they said they wanted.
I don't expect a transformation in focus. What I hope to build is an environment where we each trust each other to do exactly what we said we would do. That just being a good human being.
I'm realising that, at this age, it's as much about keeping guys engaged on a human level, not just on a cricket level. Cricket comes along for the ride, but it's a tool for bringing individuals together as a team, and that's more important.
This is a new angle for me. I have never coached players with this level of disinterest in cricket before and never seen such frustrating consequences. However, if I learn how to manage players at this level, I know it will give me better skills with more committed guys.