More on physical literacy – coaching the athlete

Debate on LinkedIn Cricket Coaches Worldwide group on the merits (or otherwise) of formal S&C training for young players.

The consensus view is that a 10-year-old would do best to simply play games, ride a bike, climb trees (can I say that without including a Health&Safety warning?).  I do agree, but with one proviso.  A lot of 10 year olds I see simply do not have the basic athletic movement patterns needed to benefit from games-based “fitness” programmes.

So the coach has the responsibility of ensuring his players have acquired “physical literacy” before they try to move on to more structured S&C training.

I coach our club U11s.  We have three players who have made County age-group squads for the summer, and several others who will play at District level; we also have players who love the game, but are still learning the basics of a bowling action, or of consistently hitting a moving ball.

None of the boys, County squad or beginner, could be described as “natural athletes”.  And without that ability to move effectively and efficiently, they can play as much as they like, but at best they won’t get much physical benefit from the extra activity, because they will be fighting their own inefficient movement patterns; at worst, they could be storing up over-use problems for the future.

Another issue – young players who cannot perform a squat correctly won’t be able to benefit from, or even participate safely in, the type of weights-based S&C training programmes that we see professional sportsmen following.

Alongside coaching basic skills and encouraging them to play more games, coaches perhaps need to help develop their young players’ FUNdamental movement skills, Agility, Balance & Coordination.  A physical extension of the “fundamentals” and “learning to train” phases of the LTAD (no longer taught on the ECB level 2 course, I understand).

I have written before about the work of Kelvin Giles (www.movementdynamics.com) on physical literacy and developing efficient movement behaviours.

Over the recent half-term break in the UK, I attended two courses specifically on developing movement skills.

The Introduction to FUNdamentals of Movement, presented by Phil Knappett, was great fun and very relevant if you are doing any work with young players.  We discussed the basics of efficient movement patterns – Agility, Balance and Coordination – then spent the rest of the morning devising games and drills to introduce these skills to young (and not so young) players.

The Performance Sports Movement workshop, presented by Alan Pearson from SAQ International, was an eye-opener.  I really can’t write that much without it sounding like an advert for SAQ.  Put simply, we were presented with a framework to devise an integrated fitness and conditioning programme that is sport specific and develops efficient movement mechanics (a common theme with the FUNdamentals course).  But there was so much more in the course than that.

Our U11s might well find themselves spending 15 minutes every week through the summer “playing movement games” or “warming up” before we start “proper” cricket practice.  I don’t think I could “sell” FUNdamentals or ABC training to them, or to their parents…but give them an excuse to run around, jumping obstacles and pulling shapes?

And the 1st XI squad have already been introduced to SAQ’s DynamicFlex™, as a warm-up before indoor nets.  Bungee rope runs and ankle cuffs (go on – look them up on the SAQ site!) might be a step too far for our 1s in 2014, but this must be the way forward for S&C.

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Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB CA cricket coach working at the MCC Academy, the Essex Indoor Cricket Centre, and with the junior sections at Oakfield Parkonians CC & Regent's Park CC; All Stars Cricket Activator; ECB ACO umpire.

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