Training has been progressing smoothly in recent weeks. We are in a nice pattern somewhere between honing the basics with a small set of drills, and trying new things.
It's tough to have any structured progressions with the sessions as players availability is so variable. We have a lot of midweek cricket and most players choose to play their midweek game rather than attend training. Alongside unexpectedly good weather, players are looking to manage fatigue, with some players hitting four games a week.
For those who do attend, I do my best to provide an environment where player-led improvement is the cornerstone. My philosophy is to learn how individuals work, analyse what they need, allow them to guide their own progress and avoid the pitfalls of just doing what they want without any specific focus (see; taking high catches over infielding and "having a hit" with the bat).
Sometimes I provide more structure, depending on the atmosphere and players. For example, most of the first team players are very focused on their game plan and know what they need to to in any session to be ready for the weekend. There is little I need to do in terms of games and drills beyond the usual stuff.
In the last session, where it was wet underfoot but dry above, we had a small group of mainly younger players (13-15) with a few recreational seniors and two regular first team players. So, I decided we would have a little more structure to set an example to the juniors: A few minutes focused fielding followed by a high-intensity batting drill in nets.
Sadly, the two first team guys - who should have set the example - decided they were not up for anything I suggested and had a general mope about: Complaining they didn't want to field at all and taking 20 minutes to get going, putting in a half-hearted effort in the field, and finally refusing to participate in the game I set up in nets. At one point a player said to me "I can do what I want" in front of the juniors.
Naturally, my pride was a little hurt, but mostly it made me sad for those two players. They got nothing from the practice session. Worse, they showed the juniors that first team cricketers are unenthusiastic and disrespectful. They message they sent to those boys was you don't need to try very hard at nets, you just hit a few balls and go home.
Working with players to work out what they need to do is a huge part of my job. telling them what to do is a rare thing. Yet if players have no goal and are not prepared to have one, then I will step in to create one. Otherwise we are spinning wheels.
The batting drill involved a lot of running. I chose it specifically because energy was low and I wanted to boost people up and enthuse them. I wanted to see how they responded to the extra pressure of batting with heart rate up and I wanted to see if they could get focused rather than having a hit. On all counts, both 1st XI batsmen failed. What does that say about their character and ability in testing circumstances?
As I always say when someone objects to a drill; I can't force them. You have to commit and if you don't commit you better nail your skills on a Saturday afternoon. I hope both those guys bat brilliantly at the weekend. My question is, have they given themselves the best chance of that in the time available?
If the answer is yes, and they got exactly what they needed from the session, then I have the ability to admit my ideas are wrong. I fear the real answer is "I was going through the motions". Even if they won't admit it out loud.
The good news is that the junior guys did commit to all the drills and vastly outperformed their seniors. That made me happy. I will work on making sure I get my message across better to the senior guys so they understand what I am asking of them.