We all like to play games…so why must practice be so dull?

We all love playing games.  Or we wouldn’t spend our summer weekends on the cricket field, and our winter evenings in the nets.

So why, when we practice, do we revert to formal instruction?  Left elbow high, alignment, 5 minutes with the bowling machine delivering leg stump half volleys to really groove that on drive.  Why don’t we play, more?

If I am honest, one of my motivations for becoming a cricket coach was that I enjoy playing (cricket and most games). “Giving something back to the game” and earning a living are important drivers, but passing on the enjoyment of playing (and being able to play more games myself) is an important part of my self-motivation.

Since qualifying, I have perhaps been inhibited by the need to demonstrate the value of structured coaching, to players, parents, even to myself. Which is why I am keen to follow the lead of the ECB Coach Education and introduce more cricket games-based learning (CGBL) to my sessions, with players young and old.

One approach to implementing CGBL: Whole – Part – Whole

In this model, a practice session comprises

  1. a cricket game (“Whole”),
  2. followed by a technique session (traditional fixed or variable practice drills) focusing on a single element of the overall skill needed for success in the game (“Part”),
  3. and ends with a modified game (“Whole”, again), where the technique that was coached in the “Part” is essential to success.

Rather than coaching a technique in isolation, it is placed immediately into its game context. To win the game, you need to demonstrate this particular technique – hence, it immediately advances from a technique in isolation to being a skill (a technique applied in context).

The session theme can be chosen in advance, based on experience with the players (“we missed a couple of run out chances last Sunday – let’s work on pick-up and throw under pressure”), or decided upon after watching the players during the first (“Whole”) game. Or even decided by the curriculum, in advance, so long as this remains appropriate to the needs of the players on the day.

Challenges to successful implementation of CGBL…and why it matters

Of course, if it was easy, we would all be using CGBL a lot more than we do.  There are challenges, but none insurmountable.  And the advantages of CGBL over “skill drills” are becoming evident.

As an example – a County-wide competition for U18 cricketers was won by a team with little access to formal coaching or practice facilities, who had developed their cricket nous mostly by playing short-form cricket in playgrounds and school gyms.  Their opponents played “good” cricket; they knew how to win games of cricket.

Because they had been brought up playing games, not reproducing perfect technique.

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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