This week, we focused on fielding in every session. Three sessions, almost six hours!
The theme was blowing away cobwebs. Some people embraced it, others were less engaged by it but everyone got on with it with gusto.
The big benefit this year is the extra coaches. We have four guys who can coach seniors now instead of one and a bit last year. This itself is a huge help, but as the coaches are current players, it has also served as a catalyst for others to be empowered.
I have been pushing the "take responsibility" idea hard this week. What I have learned from previous years is the best way to do this is:
1. Define a broad theme for the session.
2. Have selected leaders run drills around this theme in small groups.
3. Tell the players that they have the power to adjust the drill if it's not working for them.
This way, everyone in the system feels they can get something from it. There is no excuse for standing around doing nothing, or getting upset that any particular drill is a waste of time or effort.
It worked well as we progressed through technical work on catching, stopping and throwing in specific ways. We had zero complaining, zero slacking and a few occasions where practice adjusted as we went along to make needs more suitable.
We started with simple drills, like throwing at three stumps from 20 yards and trying simple inner ring catching with fingers up and down. By the end of the week we were working on more advanced techniques, like picking up and throwing from different angles. We also increased the difficulty, volume and intensity.
One of my favourite moments was a "finisher" drill we were doing with four people. It started a little half-hearted so we stopped, talked about it and decided to set a points target. When we get to 15 points, the drill is done. Suddenly the intensity shot up and we got to 15 points in no time. It was a real collaborative win!
I also liked this week as it got the guys out of the mindset of having to bat and bowl. It focused on fielding technique more than volume, which broke another big assumption we had last year. Naturally volume is important, but volume alone without development is just wheel spinning. We pushed hard to develop this week rather than play safe.
Another of my mantras this year is "improving not proving" and I pressed this home again. I often said things like "I don't mind if you make mistakes, I do mind if you are playing safe." And "training is the place to learn how far you can push your limits". It will take time for everyone to get this, but people are listening.
I have noted a few excuses floating around (like "the ground was uneven so I couldn't be at my best"). I need to get better at pointing out these comments and making it clear we see those difficult moments as opportunities to learn, not excuses to explain away mistakes.
Next week, the fielding dips a little as we switch to a theme of World-Class Basics. We will add nets back into the mix, focusing mainly on how you approach the first 20 balls (three overs for bowlers) in a match scenario. The batting will be short and sharp as as to focus the mind.
Preseason games start on 22nd April.