I have been coaching cricket since 1993, taking the "new" level 2 in 2008 and so I have a lot of miles in my coaching engine. I have learned a huge amount in that time and now I want to pass on some of my thoughts.
In many ways it's my open letter to the 18 year old David Hinchliffe about what to expect as a coach. Whether you are newly qualified yourself, or have years of experience, I would like to hear what you think.
Respect Will Make or Break Your Coaching
I'm a total cricket badger. I always have obsessed about technique, tactics, fitness and the mental game. I devoured everything I could about the game because I wanted to improve myself and be able to coach others with the aid of my encyclopaedic knowledge.
What I know now is that knowledge is just the start: Real coaching is about developing respect.
Of course, you still need to get the information right. You will never get respect or results if your abilities to observe, identify and correct are lacking. But players who respect you will listen to you. Players who listen to you have a chance of improving.
That may seem simple, but just because you have a hoodie with "COACH" emblazoned on the back, doesn't mean you will garner respect. That takes a whole different set of skills that are not taught to you on Level 2 because they are highly individual.
How to Win Respect of Anyone You Coach
I've noticed that this is one reason why there are fewer coaches at senior level that at junior level. It's much easier to have respect of a group of 12 year old cricketers than it is a jaded bunch of 20-40 year old cricketers.
But whoever you coach at whatever level, you can gain their respect.
It starts by having the confidence to know what you are trying to achieve. You have to be a very different coach with a very different goal if you are only able to run senior warm ups compared to coordinating a junior rep level side.
And to know what you are trying to achieve, you better damn well know what every individual player is trying to achieve too. I learned pretty fast that my goals rarely matched most of the people I coach. So I learned to adapt. I changed my approach to help players get what they wanted, even if it wasn't the image of perfection that I had in my mind.
Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.
It was obvious that this worked for me. Players respected me more because they saw I was working for them and not trying to force things.
For example, when I started at a new club a few years back I was quickly developing a reputation as the "drills guy with all his cones". The players would rib me for it. I could have given up and fallen in line with the old way of warming up with a few catches before play. Instead, I talked to players. I found out what they wanted to do:
"We drop too many catches in the deep"
So we bought a skyer and made it a challenge to catch as many as possible before play.
"I bowl too many bad balls"
We marked out an area for the bowlers and put flat markers down for target bowling.
You get the idea.
I still go my precious drills, but the guys felt like they were doing them for a reason and so they respected my ability to come up with things that did what they wanted while also keeping them interested.
Better Sessions are About People Not Drills
There is a comedian called Pete Holmes who talks about the idea of the "$10,000 statement". It's the idea that a very simple statement is very difficult to really learn. So it takes $10,000 of therapy to really get it.
My $10,000 statement about coaching is this: It's about people, not drills.
I know it's obvious, but it took me a lot of years - and a lot of sessions - to really understand that fact. I would rather have a few drills and have a real connection with my players than hundred of drills and a bunch of players who are closed off to new ideas.
When you connect with players, they not only learn from you, they learn from themselves because they are open and mindful.
Maybe that openness and mindfulness is only for 15 minutes before your matches in the summer. Maybe it's part of a year long programme of talented cricketers. It doesn't matter because either way you are making a difference.
And that is what it's all about.