In this session I was lulled into thinking the players were more ready for responsibility than they were, and it went badly.
As is usual now, I insisted on players self-warming up, but this time didn't get anyone to lead it. The result was some people warmed up a bit and others did a few stretches. That should have been my first clue. I foolishly soldiered on with my plan.
A productive start
I set up three stations; throwing at a stump, fielding on the boundary and hitting the ball into gaps. These are all areas in which we can improve. I then told the guys to do what they need to do and gave them freedom to do what they liked.
This started well. Three bowlers said they would rather do target bowling and set up an area themselves. Another group wanted to do throwdowns. The others split between fielding and gap hitting drills. People were talking to me about the work they needed to do to be ready for the weekend fixtures.
However, it wasn't long before a couple of players were asking to have a net. I wanted to encourage this player-led action so, despite reservations, I said yes.
As you may know, one of my pet peeves is players mindlessly netting with no one getting a clear benefit. I trusted that they were not going to let me down, so I made one rule of no more than four bowlers at a time and left them to it.
I was wrong.
What happened was exactly what I feared; nobody organised the net they had requested meaning players batted on for a long time while others stood around waiting. At one point there were nine bowlers in the net and one guy - who I had essentially banned from bowling - standing by the bowlers because he couldn't think of anything else to do. There was no doubt it was a disorganised mess.
Also in the meantime the "hit the gaps" drill disintegrated as players decided to stop fielding and have a bowl or pad up.
Now, I have to take the blame here.
I reasonably expected that - as an adult - if you ask for a net, you are going to organise it. I left them to it without either taking responsibility for keeping time and managing bowlers, or assigning that job to someone else. For that reason, no one did it. I took my eye off it to work with fielding drills.
That said, what annoyed me most was no one spoke up. I heard at least two people grumbling about it but not one person thought to either take control of the net, or ask me to take it over. The cornerstone of my coaching philosophy is that players have to take personal responsibility. That's why I stood off and that's why I was saddened my the response.
Strangely, we had two under 15 boys at the session who took it on themselves to work together and spent the entire session doing unsupervised, productive work both batting and bowling. They showed this can be done.
The lesson learned here is that I have assumed too much responsibility on the part of the players and need to reign in this aspect until they are more ready for it. As one person said to me after the session, "we are used to being sheparded like sheep, and are lost without that". I don't want sheep, I want lions and tigers, but I need to bring in these things more slowly and piecemeal.
My plan for future sessions is;
- Continue to stress the idea of personal responsibility; players must come to every session with a clear idea of what they want to achieve. Constantly challenge players through the session to stay mindful of their aims.
- Ask people to speak up to me if they feel something isn't working. However also have the ultimate aim of removing me from the process so they can adapt drills without my input.
- Be more mindful of people choosing to stand around doing nothing. Take a moment to speak with them and find out if waiting 20 minutes with your pads on is the best use of your session. It isn't.
- When dealing with nets or complex drills, assigning responsibility to a single person to ensure the net is managed.
- Returning the whole group fielding session to set a more organised tone before breaking people off.
- The good: the session was actually alright. We did a lot of fielding, lots of people got a go in the nets. Activity was high.
- Needs work: Organisation (ideally player-led).