I am slowly recovering from a hectic couple of days at the ECB Coaches Association Conference at the weekend.
Leaving the house at 6 am, and listening to Ashley Giles talk about his career, and his journey from player to coach, at midnight…a long and fascinating first day, followed by six straight hours of workshop and presentation on Sunday.
Taken singly, every presentation contained nuggets of interest. Taken together, and with the added bonus of a group of like-minded cricket coaches to share ideas with, there was almost too much to absorb in one weekend, and I am sure to be coming up with new ideas for months to come.
However, the key themes of the weekend were encapsulated for me in the title of the opening keynote from Frank Dick: Winning Matters – and, by extension, so does the role of the coach in developing the pathway towards victory.
The word “difference” came up a lot, too – we were exhorted to be “the difference that makes a difference”; “thinking differently [and] performing better”.
Frank challenged us all to come up with a way to become that “winning difference” – I am still working on mine.
ECB CA Conference Review
What follows is a very (very) brief review of some of the sessions I attended at the Conference.
Well, of course it does, or why would we play (competitive) games? But Frank Dick, who knows a bit about winning as a coach, set out to define the roles and responsibilities of the coach in terms of behaviours and processes.
Training does not deliver certainty, but (effective) training does allow you to turn uncertainty to advantage.
The role of the coach is to help players develop from who they are today to who they are capable of being tomorrow.
The Sticky Stuff
Gemma Morgan (@morgan_eight) told an inspiring and moving story of her experiences operating inside Kosovo prior to the NATO offensive in 1999, and of the key lessons for leaders (and coaches).
Gemma emphasised the absolute imperative of getting the “sticky stuff” right – of understanding the people you work with and of developing mutual trust.
Two quotes stood out from her presentation:
“it’s too late to have that conversation [about trust] when you are sat on top of an anti-tank mine!”
“build today the relationships that are key to your survival tomorrow”
In the context of conflict and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, this trust becomes a matter of life and death.
For the coach – if you don’t really know the players you are working with, how can you help them develop into “…who they are capable of being…”, as Frank Dick put it.
England crushed by Australia in the Tri-series final, and Andy Murray loses to Novak Djokovic…good job we had the Conference to take our mind off the sport…
Tim Lumb, opening proceedings on Sunday morning, reinforced the themes from Saturday’s speakers. Tim discussed his own journey into coaching, and recent research by the ECB into the motivations of recreational cricketers – what keeps them in the game, and the reasons why they give it up? And the availability of coaching (or of the challenges and rewards that good coaching can bring) were near the top of the list.
The Journey of Change
Fayyaz “Fuzz” Ahmed – top-level high jumper, actor, coach to Olympic medal winning high jumpers, and a man motivated to become a coach because his own coaches left him crippled and unable to compete at the age of 24.
Illustrating his session with examples drawn from his experiences as an athlete and coach, Fuzz described his own journey of change and the philosophy and processes that underlie his approach to coaching.
Fascinating, but not necessarily something to be tried at home…
One phrase leapt out at me, though, which was the need for coaches to help their athletes to “develop “skill ability” – the ability to learn new skills.
Technical sessions – Saturday and Sunday
We had to choose three technical sessions (out of 9 on the schedule) I wanted to attend them all, but it simply was not possible.
Unlocking Bowling Biomechanics
In his presentation, Dr Mark King identified four characteristics of the fastest bowlers in his study cohort:
- quicker run-up
- delayed bowling arm
- more trunk flexion between front foot contact (FFC) and ball release (BR)
- a straighter front knee at BR (and, implicitly, given the difficulty of straightening the knee in mid-delivery stride, presumably also at FFC)
Interestingly, in a further study of the amount of force generated by the fastest bowlers, maximum pace was associated with a longer delivery stride and heel-strike technique at FFC.
All confirming what a lot of us have felt…now we just have to work out how to coach this!
Keeping players on the park
Chris Bodman’s workshop delivered a compelling introduction to physical competence – “the ability to express [high] levels of force production, reduction & stabilisation” – without which, even highly skilled sportsmen and women are going to be susceptible to injury.
You hear this a lot, in professional sports – “we train hard, but we still get injuries” – physical competence is designed to prepare players to train more effectively and to avoid the stresses and strains of training and match day.
Some of what Chris had to say was familiar to me (in fact, he has worked with Kelvin Giles of @MovementDynamics on the programme), but what was (especially) interesting was the news that the ECB are to release a Foundation Physical Preparation System to support coaches “in the field” – a branch of coaching that seemed esoteric, at best, a year ago, might be moving towards the mainstream.
And if I can get my u11s up to a base level of physical competence, not only will I be supporting their participation in cricket, but in all manner of physical activity. Not a bad return for 5 minutes out of every coaching session!
Creativity in Coaching
Richard Cheetham (@twowheelprof) spoke on the need to think differently to perform better – an idea already endorsed by several of the other speakers.
Richard’s highly enjoyable workshop left me with lots of ideas on how to unlock creativity in coaching, and the determination to at least try to devise creative warm-ups and training sessions that enthuse our players.
Anyone for “minefield”?
Two days, 12 hours, and many, many months of ideas.
Thanks to all at ECB CA for organising the Conference.
When’s the 2017 event?