The 2016 autumn sessions have nearly finished, and as Christmas approaches, it's a good time to reflect on them.
As I said before, these are a very different structure and so have resulted in some positives and negatives.
First the areas that need work,
- Although we had more people come through, attendance was not as regular. There were a few faces there most weeks and some who barely came at all.
- Some people vanish for the winter. One one hand it's good they let me know they are not interested in cricket until spring has sprung. On the other hand, it's a source of frustration.
- My "hands off" style often lead to a lack of direction from some players. In younger players this often lead to distracting each other and senior players.
- Even with small groups, there were times when things didn't match up and players were not quite getting what they wanted from a session.
I have decided one simple way to get this aligned is setting out clearer themes for the sessions. This still gives players room to work on things they want to focus on, but with a loose structure around it.
On the encouraging side,
- I'm doing way more one to one sessions outside of the main sessions.
- Those who came to the sessions with more of a plan achieved positive outcomes, including one player who has transformed his front foot driving and another who looks like he has cracked a problem with his bowling action.
- I've learned some things about technique just by watching and interacting with players and asking for feedback. It's felt like an awesome discussion, working towards a solution with players, rather than prescribing one way.
- I have learned a great deal about encouraging a growth mindset in both myself and players, and I sense this could be transformational.
I'm currently reading "Mindset" by Carol Dweck. It's about the idea of the "growth mindset", which sounds a bit new age drippy, but is a scientifically proven approach to success. I urge you to look into it if you play or coach cricket. The absolute basic idea is that people approach the game in one of two ways: either prove your worth (fixed mindset) or improve yourself (growth mindset). Those with a growth mindset are more likely to succeed.
I took pages of notes as I listened to the audiobook. The ideas in it have drawn together a lot of threads for me in both my own coaching and the way others approach being coached and training.
Before I read the book I thought I knew the score about growth: we can all improve. That's a huge part of it, but there are other layers that I have spotted in myself and others. For example,
- Players who either skip training or turn up to sessions without focus are probably in a fixed mindset. You don't push yourself, you can't fail. Every play and miss against a net bowler proves you are not good enough. You would rather play safe and not turn up, or do something simple.
- I'm convinced this is where the phrase "I just want to hit balls" comes from too. Before, I thought it was a lack of a desire or creativity, but really it's because fixed mindset cricketers see nets as a test. If you go in and face balls at random you get to see if you are "in form" or not and protect yourself from pushing forward.
- In myself, I have seen fixed mindset language. I have given players excuses for a bad performance ("oh that ball swung more") rather than giving honest feedback that is difficult to deliver. I have been demeaning to players as "banter" for when they are unfocused when it would have been much better to have demanded the best from them in those moments.
- I have praised players ability to build up their confidence. This sounds great, but Dweck's research showed this is counter-productive. When you praise people by telling them how good or talented they are, they stop pushing themselves because they don't want to fail and prove their lack of ability. Instead praise works when it is about growth: effort, strategies, choices and genuine attempts to challenge yourself.
- I have pushed players and when I got resistance to the idea of something new and challenging (fixed mindset), I caved to their demands because I wanted to be player-centred. Actually, I know know the answer is in the growth mindset: to offer the challenge, see who takes it up and work with those who resist it. Tell them I want them to be the best and this is the way I have chosen. If you genuinely don't want to do it, how can we develop by doing something different?
- I've realised that there are far too many fixed mindset excuses to not train. Those in the growth mindset see setbacks as opportunity. Those in the fixed mindset see it as clear reasons to avoid nets. If I hear "the indoor nets are not good for my game", I'm on red alert for the real reason, which is "it's challenging for me to adapt, I'd rather play safe and save my ego". Compare that to the player who was at nets this week, saying the bounce on the concrete is different, but as long as he is making the right shot choices, he's happy he's developing.
- That said, I have also noticed measured training is not only way to learn and improve. It's a very important way, but as long as a player is in a growth mindset where they are trying to find ways to learn - even in failure - then they can learn from unmeasured training, games, reading, talking and so on. There are many tools.
I can take all these things into future sessions and help create an environment at the club built on growth. I thought we were there before, but I can raise it further by using a growth mindset to set high standards of work and discipline while removing ego-based value judgements.
This can be done, and I'm glad we had this phase to bring it forward. The work continues.