I set up a WhatsApp group to discuss training before this session and got some interesting comments about what the players wanted.
One person said they wanted to do the basics but felt like we did the same thing every week.
I'm not sure how those things marry up as we do work on the basics of fielding, bowling and batting, but always have different drills to keep people occupied in fresh ways. I suspect the truth is, for this person, they want to get a longer bat outside against decent bowling and feel any "fancy drill" is just getting in the way of hitting balls. This is a valid view and I'll think about getting the key batsmen a longer bat at least one session a week.
The rest of the feedback was more practical. They wanted middle practice but with focused fielding and good bowling. As you know, we have struggled to make this work in the past, so we set up a new game. More on that in a moment.
At the start of the session, I did my usual trick of self-warm up - which the players are getting the hang of now - followed by three fielding stations.
- High catching with me on the mitt and Skyer.
- Low catching with the Katchet.
- Throwing at a stump.
The last drill had a complexity element. There were two sets of stump set up. Players had to do 10 press ups, then get fed a ball and told to throw at either the red stumps or the yellow stumps. You got a point for getting through wide cones, and three points for throwing through the target (two stumps with no middle).
We then set up the middle practice with a net on the leg side to allow for off side fielding only. The plan was to work on strike rotation; both stopping it in the field and making it happen with the bat. The rules were:
- 1 point for the batting pair for a run
- 1 point to the fielding unit for a dot
- 5 points to the fielding unit for a wicket
We also experimented with making the fielders do press ups for every five runs conceded. This aspect didn't quite work as planned but I like the idea, and will tweak it in future.
Others not in the game went away to get throwdowns or do some more fielding. I liked how this aspect worked as players just went and did creative stuff with no input from me.
The game worked well for about half an hour then the fielders started losing interest. The score stopped being kept, some fielders were half-hearted, there was no field setting element and one person was throwing his hands up - literally - and moaning about it being pointless. My plan for a leaderboard of scores was scuppered because of these reason.
Stop pointless netting
I had to twice gather the fielders in and give them a dressing down about the point of the session. If middle practice is to work, everyone must treat it like a game where every run matters. This wasn't happening, so I told people to do something else or commit.
My analysis is that the "have a net" mentality is ingrained in all of us very deeply. It means that when you practice it's only a matter of time before you default to mindlessly going through the motions. This is the antithesis of my reasons for training. We all turn up to make sure we do well in a match, so we must treat every session like a golden chance to improve in some way. I will continue to press this home.
I'm happy to admit I could have driven the analysis better of the session. I was conscious of wasting time gathering people together, so perhaps a compromise is to have a huddle after a wicket. This gives the batsman time to consider his approach and acts as a minor punishment of less batting time. Meanwhile the fielders can "reset" mentally and tactically.
Despite this glaring issue, it was a good session overall. Key batsmen got a go against good bowlers. We got some fielding in. The sun shone and we all learned a lesson or two. Not a bad way to spend a summer evening by any means!
- The good: Basics covered, people taking greater responsibility, good middle practice initially. Commitment still high.
- Needs work: Maintain focus, encourage further mindful training rather than default netting.