Net practice for young players – yes and no

A thought-provoking post this week from David Hinchliffe at PitchVision Academy (@PitchVisionAcad), on the loss of young players from the game, and ways to keep them engaged and coming back for more.

Over-reliance on net practice, especially for younger players, has been highlighted by some of David’s readers as a contributing factor.  As I explain to the players I coach – in a typical net evening, you might spend 10 minutes batting (if you are lucky), 10 minutes actually bowling, and the rest of the time watching the others bat and bowl.  Not much fun, really!  And no wonder concentration levels flag towards the end of the evening.

There has to be a better way.  And there is.

Nets – yes and no

Speaking as a coach working with young players from 4-16 (yes – 4 years old…although it’s not really cricket, at that age, just general movement skills with a little bat and ball work), I have taken groups of 10 year olds into the nets, but only as part of their wider cricketing education.

It can help to introduce the discipline of net practice – bowling in turn, concentrating on making the batsman actually hit the ball – but it will only work after the basics of bowling straight (ish) and striking a moving ball have been absorbed.

Net pressure

There is certainly pressure (from parents and peers at other Clubs) for the younger players to start “proper” practice, i.e. nets, as soon as possible, as if getting into the nets was in some way a fast-track to cricketing success.

I have even heard of young players leaving a club (or being removed by their parents, more accurately) to transfer to another Club that offers more net time.  I have not heard of one of them progressing to County or District age-group squads after transferring…

The promise of a net session can be offered as an incentive for improved performance in drills and non-net practices, but we might net once or twice a term, at most, spending the rest of the time on drills, games and free play.

At my local Club, I am helped in this by the fact that we have a large junior section (up to 70 boys) and only two outdoor nets – we simply do not have the capacity to net every week.  But even indoors, over the winter, when we have the use of 4 nets at a nearby school, we try to follow the same pattern, especially with the younger players.

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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