This week's training theme was "pressure". Results were mixed, but overall encouraging.
The balancing act here was to put people under more pressure without disengagement. Last time I tried to do this, the response we largely negative: Passive rejection of trying the game or perhaps even outright defiance. This time I set up a game with a lighter touch and gave people room decide for themselves.
I framed the game in a different context by saying it was an opportunity to learn natural response to pressure and develop a way of dealing with it. The idea was to give players an insight into their own mind from which they can learn.
The game itself was a simple incentive. Bat for 15 minutes without getting out and you get five extra minutes (an idea from Millfield School Head of Cricket, Mark Garaway). The players batted in pairs to add running to the mix. Running raises the heart rate, which is a quick way to feel under pressure.
I'm not sure how much it was coincidence and how much it was a lack of desire to feel pressure, but we had four players drop out once I explained the game in the team WhatsApp group!
The results were good. Everyone batted with focus and there were no strops. One player misunderstood the game and almost blew up when he was out first ball. Then he realised his net wasn't over and calmed down. Then after his net he said "we should play 'out means out' sometime too". Nice.
Naturally, I have no way of monitoring the success of the drill in teaching a calm response to pressure. That's down to how the guys reflect on the drill. However, from observations I saw people batting and bowling with more overall focus. So, I was pleased that the guys seemed to be taking the opportunity.
The next night was a more traditional net that is supposed to be run by our Development captain. I'm always there which means he tends to default to letting me run the session.
As a result I sort of plan something and then let the guys get on with it. This time I asked them to decide for themselves about raising heart rate. I suspected the results would be a passive ignoring of it. I was right. Nobody did anything except bat and bowl.
I now realise how important the balancing act is between setting up games and allowing self-management. Get it wrong and the goal is not met. Get it right and you have a chance for learning.
Last year I would have got frustrated at the player's lack of ambition to be self-reliant. This year I know that you need a bit of structure to allow self-reliance, as group-think and peer pressure seems to kill it unless you force it just a little.
I also think drills work better if I make it clear there is a single intention that is behind the drill. Even if someone doesn't like or appreciate it, they can buy into trying it once.