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.