The quest for physical literacy – why it matters for cricket coaches

This autumn we are very lucky to have a full team of qualified coaches working with our Colts section.  Not only does this mean that the volunteer coaches get the chance to work with more experienced coaches, it also means that we have the luxury of occasionally taking a step back from running a session to actively observe what is going in.

And some of the things we have seen, even in the warm-ups, have confirmed a growing suspicion about the fundamental athletic abilities, such as speed, strength and agility, demonstrated by our players.

We are working with a group of talented young cricketers who are not always equally talented athletes.

But a series of observations that confirm a suspicion only poses the question – what can we, as cricket coaches, do to help our cricketers to become (better) athletes at the same time as developing their technical, tactical and psychological cricketing skills?  We are cricket coaches, not track and field, or gymnastics.

So I was very lucky to attend a breakfast workshop recently with Kelvin Giles, where he addressed the topic of physical literacy.  And the more I heard, the more I became convinced that basic physical literacy could be the answer to our (cricket-related) athlete development challenge.

Kelvin has been track and field coach for both GB and Australian Olympians, Performance Director for the Brisbane Broncos Rugby League Club, and Head of Athletic Development for the Australian Rugby Union, as well as holding senior academic posts.  Now he is a passionate advocate for physical literacy to be actively taught in schools, not just as a part of athletic development but as a core component of Physical Education.

In an enthralling 2 hours and 15 minutes, Kelvin introduced us to the concept of “Physical Literacy”, and how it forms a building block for all athletic (and day-to-day) movement.

The application of physical literacy can then be formulated as the ability to Produce, Reduce and Stabilise Force, simultaneously in different parts of the body, and at the right time, in the right direction, and with the right amount of force.

That sounds like a lot to learn (and even more to teach)…until you realise that these movements are all entirely natural.  Kelvin described five “keystone” movements – squat, lunge, pull, push and brace – from which all movement patterns can be built.

The challenge is often to re-learn these instinctive movement skills that have been forgotten as a result of 21st century life-styles.

So the teacher “simply” introduces a range of movement puzzles and leaves the student to solve them for her- or himself by identifying the most efficient movement patterns.

Of course, those “simple” puzzles take ingenuity and experience to devise, which is where the work of Kelvin and Movement Dynamics really comes into focus.

So what next for physical literacy in cricket?

Taking time away from bat-and-ball practice to develop and enhance key movement skills probably won’t be popular with the players.  But I can see a new range of warm-up routines, where we seek to emphasise precise and controlled movement patterns as much as to increase the heart rate and get the body ready to move effectively and efficiently.

When you see any of our net bowlers breaking away between deliveries to perform the “hot-foot lizard” (one of Kelvin’s movement puzzles), you will know that we have really taken the quest for physical literacy to the heart of our training regimes!

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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