With the weather great I was hoping to get on the square for grass nets, but the groundsman stopped me in my tracks so we had to adapt.
We still had the indoor nets and the outfield, and so I set a session theme of "mental nets".
After warming up, we had 17 senior players ready for action. Another stellar turnout. In fact, as a side note I have been impressed by the number of senior players chomping at the bit for practice and games. There is a 12 a side inter-club game coming up and so many people are desperate to play we had to have a full selection meeting. But more on that game when it happens.
In the session, we did a few more throwing drills with the focus on technique. I made a note that the throwing was slightly held back by the guys not wanting to throw flat to a team mate. The drill worked well, but we can make it really good by having some catching mitts to encourage the flatter harder throws.
Then we split up into three groups:
- Indoors 10 point game nets (see here).
- Outdoors target bowling.
- Outdoors fielding.
Rather than focus on skills, I stressed the importance of mental processes to breed confidence and consistency. To do this we customised things a little, as well as talking through some ideas.
Nets for mental prep
With the nets, I asked the players to bat in threes, with the third batter acting as scorer and umpire. When you are out you rotate into that role. This not only puts pressure on the you when you bat, it also shows how you respond when someone gives you out for a possibly unfair reason! This reaction is a sign of your resilience in tough situations.
In reality, this plan didn't work out as I couldn't monitor the nets closely enough. Luckily the players switched to a 10 point game instead without prompting. I was happy to see the self reliance. I also got lots of feedback about adapting things further, so it's clear the guys are getting the message that they are leading their own development and I'm the consultant (a Duncan Fletcher maxim).
I wanted to also talk through the process players have between balls. As it turned out this was not the right platform, so I left it this time. It may be that this element needs its own specific session.
However, one thing that did work well was another of Mark Garaway's ideas; replacing "last six" with "intention 12". The batsman gets 12 balls and imagines he is hitting out at the death. You get,
- No points for missing the ball
- One point for hitting the ball
- Two points for good contact
- Three points for nailing it (exceptional contact)
This is logged and we track performance over time, rather than blindly hitting out when the call of "last six" comes.
Bowling with focus
The bowlers did some target work, but I asked them to think about their mental process rather than their techniques.
So I pushed back on technical questions, saying that the session is about learning to focus. I used the old tip that you review walking back, decide at the top of your mark and commit as you run in. To aid this I asked the players to note their review on a pad before bowling the next ball.
Again, this didn't quite go as as planned. Most bowlers made a couple of notes then went back to bowling. Although afterwards I spoke to a couple of the guys who all said it was a useful exercise, they just had a different focus. One guy wanted to use it as a test of his fitness, another wanted to geta few overs bowled off his full run after being indoors. I feel I can push the mental element harder, but I should have been more specific about who needed it rather than assume everyone wanted that kind of session.
Players rotated with the indoor guys to make sure batsmen got a bat and bowlers got a bowl indoors. This worked well again, thanks to the focus of the guys on taking responsibility for their own training, and being supportive of the needs of others.
The final group we're made up of players who didn't want to bat indoors, and were not bowlers. We did a few fielding drills, including Mark Garaway's Monster Machine Gun. Which is a killer!
As I was moving between stations, I again encouraged and saw self-led training. I set them a drill and checked back a couple of times to change it and they just kept powering on. I thought perhaps this group got the least attention from me and they would feel neglected, but when I asked a couple of them individually afterwards what they would do to chance the session, each one was the same in only asking for outdoor nets.
In fact, it's this aspect that I felt most about: We had a dry square, a cut pitch and a bunch of keen players. It was perfect for some outdoor batting. However, I don't have a good enough relationship with the groundsman to push my case hard yet. When I spoke with him he said he was worried the square would get cut up and wanted another clear week. He's the expert so I didn't argue (even though I disagreed, because he is more likely to be right than me). I will be putting more pressure on in future weeks if the sun stays out. You have to take you chances in Glasgow!
- The good: Adapted to the situation well, strong player-led session overall. The feedback after the session was all positive, with the only negative that we couldn't bat on the square.
- Needs work: The theme didn't come through strongly enough, but that may be due to it being out of context. It may have worked better when we have had a few games to understand the need for a process. Also, it failed on the batting side so I'll cover it again another time. Finally, some mitts for catching practice are a good idea.