Change is hard because it takes you into the unknown. What if the new plan fails and makes you look a fool?
Last season at West was a disaster for the 1st XI and this provided the perfect chance for me to suggest changes in coaching approach at the club. Things couldn't have gone worse. We already looked foolish after finishing dead bottom with one win. Change is good in that circumstance.
In the winter I was left to my own devices with the players. We did quite a few new things. We changed the structure and pushed the "practice with purpose" mantra harder. It worked well.
With the summer approaching, we have been deciding how much of the winter plan will move into summer training. There has been quite the extended discussion. It's been fun to work with various stakeholders at the club to get their opinions and ideas. We have not always agreed with each other but it's always been friendly rather than aggressive: Good, open communication.
My argument is that changes have been a success: Attendance has been outstanding. There are several measurable improvements in players. Accountability is up. This has all come from training with smaller groups in more sessions that are shorter. For example, three groups of four training for an hour each, instead of one group of 12 for two hours.
On the other side, there has been a concern that the focus on small groups could lead to an elitist separation of the good players from the rest. Nets have always been inclusive large group sessions where young, old, good and bad are competing as a club. With the smaller sessions we had over the winter, lesser players and new players might be put off. Or worse, turned away.
It's true that club cricket is a delicate balancing act for the coach. You are judged by first team results above all else but you cannot treat the best players differently from the worst players. Everyone is equal in the eyes of the membership list.
My recent efforts have been about tipping the balance a little way towards the best players. Generally, good players train more than less good players. So, I can understand how this might look elitist.
Additionally, concerns were raised about training three times a week as we have a full programme of midweek games starting as soon as the season gets going in May. It's possible some sessions will be poorly attended as people choose playing first.
These details aside, we are broadly in agreement with the outcomes we want: Productive training in an inclusive environment, with an even stronger focus on fielding. So, we have made a compromise and will review after a few weeks to see how the players like it: Three training days, one big group session and two specialist sessions based on batting and bowling rather than ability.
I'll still get my accountability by asking players to let me know they are coming rather than asking for "appointments" (too exclusive). Once I know who's coming I can manage the sessions to match players of roughly equal ability together. I can track results of the players who want to track progress. I can rest easy if someone doesn't get a bat on bowling day or vice versa.
Of course the proof will be in the reaction of the players. As we are planning a review before the league begins, that's the best way to find out. If they can see progress and clear benefits we can keep doing it. That's the point after all!
Change is always tough. Training might be my remit as coach, but I can't ignore the needs of others just because I feel a certain way. It's a process that needs to find a way that works for all. We are well on the road to that already. Let's see how it goes.