The importance of observation skills for coaches…and players?

Observation is a crucial component in the coaches tool kit.

But if can we also teach our players to observe effectively, might they become better players?

Another important coaching skill is knowing when to let go!

You are the Analyst!

Why not set your players the challenge during practice sessions – what do they see when they really watch the game?

I have tried this a few times with groups of young cricketers – with a little prompting, it is encouraging to see how quickly the analysis can become genuinely perceptive and constructive, even with a group of 7 year olds.

“She didn’t fall over when she hit that one.”

“The bowler followed through towards gully.”

Which allows the coach to deploy another important tool from the tool kit – the question.

“OK – so now you know what is going on, how would you do it better?”

But what are you looking at?

This is the real challenge to effective observation, both for the coach and the players.

It is not enough to watch the action and compare it with some idealised model of the perfect player.  The coach has to understand which elements of the technique are non-negotiable and which are open to personal interpretation.

Can you teach this skill to your players?

Why not?  Simply by reinforcing the key coaching points, that is exactly what you are doing.

For batting, this list (from ECB Coach Education) applies to pretty much every situation.

  • Balanced & comfortable set-up
  • Head in optimal position so the player can see the ball
  • Decisive & balanced movements to establish a stable & balanced base
  • Clean contact with the full fact of the bat

Not so difficult to watch out for.  And if your players can spot this (or the absence of any of these elements) in top batsmen, then they must have a better appreciation of what they should be aspiring to for their own technique.


The coaching tools

ECB Coach Education now lists 9 “coaching tools”:

  • Instruct
  • Demonstrate
  • Observe
  • Analyse
  • Intervene
  • Praise
  • Use silence
  • Question
  • Feedback

Different tools will be needed at different times, but some will have to be deployed more often – given that every coaching intervention needs to be related to what is happening (on the field or in practice sessions) and relevant to the players, observation is going to be the most important coaching tool, and the most frequently deployed.

The “observe” skill is then further broken down.

  • Have I taken enough time to observe?
  • What are the players trying to do and what is the outcome?
  • Is the skill safe (for the players)?
  • Have I observed from different positions?

The emphasis is now on outcomes (desired and achieved) and safety – if the technique works (consistently), and is safe, what you are seeing is

This current ECB Coach Education definition has evolved from an earlier “observe” “coaching bug”:

  • Break down [the skill under observation] to focus on one part or coaching point at a time
  • Observe from different angles
  • Observe several times
  • Check if the outcome is effective

The old ECB Coaching Bugs were an important part of the “how to” coaching skills taught when I took my level 1 (2009) and level 2 (2011) qualifications.  They can look a little prescriptive (“if you are going to [insert appropriate coaching skill], you must  [list the four relevant actions in order]” but it still works.

Published by

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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