Preseason has begun at West of Scotland.
I'm excited about the next few months in the run up to the start of the cricket season. The aim is to raise the standards of the entire club, from part time third team player through youth players all the way up to first team stars.
It's a huge challenge.
So how are we approaching it?
If I was going to put it into a statement I'd say, "Focused and flexible training".
Focused because I believe you improve by practicing specific things and flexible because the range of abilities, available time and motivation to train is wide.
We have started this year with an new experimental weekly structure, all based in the two lane indoor nets:
- One club net session
- Two junior net sessions
- One batting session, done in small groups.
- One bowling session, done in small groups.
- Multiple one to one coaching sessions
The joy of this is the flexibility. Casual guys can come to the club session and enjoy the usual banter. Serious guys can focus on their main skill in a more focused and skill-matched environment.
It's so flexible, even the exceptions can get what they need. For example, one player is mainly a batsman but can only get to the bowling session. So, he comes down half an hour early and faces the bowling machine. Then, when the fast bowlers arrive he faces them in the nets before finally bowling at the end.
I run the specialist skill sessions in small groups of 3-5 players an hour at a time. This means the batsmen get 40 minutes working on specifics and batting in tactical situations. The bowlers get 40 minutes working between target bowling and tactical bowling. There is no way this would happen if we had simply general nets.
Of course this is all backed by PitchVision to track both bowling and batting as much as possible.
I keep "averages" for the batsmen based on a game we play, and accuracy stats for the bowlers. This is designed to be a motivational tool
Is there a down side?
There is a heck of a lot of coaching for me to run: Planning sessions, setting up, throwing balls, talking through things, tracking and updating data. Even for a badger like me it's tiring.
It means I rely on players to take control of their own game and help each other because I can't be everywhere. However, even in this first week back I have seen guys swapping advice, helping each other and walking into to nets knowing what they want to do rather than "having a hit".
From my perspective, the first week was a huge success. We had high numbers at all sessions and the intensity was brilliant. Time will tell if I can maintain this frantic pace and players can keep standards as high as week one, but I believe we can.
If this experiment works, we will hit the new season more prepared than any team in the country.
I'll keep you posted.